Dr. Strauss' work, "A Functional SNP in the Promoter of the SERPINH1 Gene Increases Risk of Preterm Premature Rupture of Membrane in African Americans" was published online and will appear in a future issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"This is an example of how heredity may play a role in pregnancy complications and how genetic factors can contribute to racial disparities in the incidence of preterm birth," said Dr. Strauss. "With better understanding of this genetic variation, we hope to be able to identify pregnancies at greater risk of preterm birth and intervene to prevent it."
"Supporting research is critical if we are to end this epidemic," said Dr. Nancy Green, medical director of the March of Dimes. "While findings like those of Dr. Wang and Dr. Strauss are not a magic bullet that will cure prematurity, they are crucial to our fight."
Dr. Wang's research found that a genetic variant of the Prolylcarboxypeptidase gene had a significant association with preeclampsia, characterized by high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine, which can develop by the 20th week of pregnancy. The only known cure for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby, often prematurely. Women who have the gene variant, and had chronic hypertension before becoming pregnant, had the greatest risk of developing preeclampsia.
"This genetic association could be a highly sensitive and specific early predictor of preeclampsia among women with chronic high blood pressure even before pregnancy," said Dr. Wang.
Her work, "Prolylcarboxypeptidase Gene, Chronic Hypertension, and Risk of Preeclampsia," was published in Vol. 195, No. 1 of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.