Public Release: 

March of Dimes provides $2.6 million in new funding for preterm birth research

Six innovative scientists aim to predict and prevent preterm birth

March of Dimes Foundation

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., FEBRUARY 23, 2010 - Scientists seeking answers to the complex problem of premature birth will explore whether stimulation of estrogen receptors triggers preterm labor, study how genetics and the environment interact to cause preterm birth, and investigate whether vitamin D can suppress factors that make some women more likely to give birth too soon, all with the financial support of the March of Dimes.

The March of Dimes has committed another $2.6 million to support the work of six scientists for the next three years as they study the causes of preterm birth. The 2010 grants bring the six-year total of the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Initiative grant program to more than $15 million.

Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant death in the United States, and babies who survive face serious lifelong health problems. More than 543,000 babies are born too soon each year, and the nation's premature birth rate has increased 36 percent since the early 1980s. Worldwide, about 13 million babies are born prematurely each year.

"We know that preterm birth is a complex problem and that there isn't one magic solution that will prevent babies from being born too soon," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "Research, such as the projects we're supporting, is critical to giving all babies a healthy start in life."

Even with this new commitment of private dollars, more needs to be done, Dr. Howse said. The March of Dimes is calling on Congress to increase its funding to strengthen national data systems and to expand research on very early as well as late preterm births.

The 2010 PRI grant recipients are:

  • Iain L. Buxton, PharmD, University of Nevada School of Medicine
  • Martin Hewison, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Emmet Hirsch, MD, University of Chicago
  • Stephen Lye, PhD, University of Toronto, Canada
  • Sam Mesiano, PhD, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio
  • Jeffrey C. Murray, MD, University of Iowa

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The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies®, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org

Todd P. Dezen, (914) 997-4608, tdezen@marchofdimes.com
Elizabeth Lynch, (914) 997-4286, elynch@marchofdimes.com

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