Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: In a significant development, researchers have discovered a surprising possible trigger for preterm births, a finding that might help solve the mystery behind why some babies are born prematurely.
They found that small calcium deposits in the womb may lead to a mother's water breaking early, which may result in a premature birth.
The study suggests that dietary or other interventions may prevent those preterm births.
Researchers from US Nationwide Children's Hospital found that in preterm, premature rupture of the fetal membranes - that is, water breaking significantly early- the amniotic sac contains calcium deposits and early markers of bone formation.
The membranes, then, are less elastic and more prone to breaking.
"We do see calcium deposits in full term births as well, which is probably part of the normal breakdown of the membranes at the appropriate time," said Irina Buhimschi from Nationwide Children's Hospital
"The membranes are supposed to rupture when labour is underway. However, these calcium deposits are too many and too early," said Buhimschi.
Demonstrating how the deposits occur, the study reveals many human body fluids, including saliva and blood, can produce calciprotein particles. It said that when those particles deposit in soft tissues outside of the skeleton, they can lead to harmful calcification.
Calciprotein particles have been implicated in kidney stones, atherosclerosis and aneurism rupture. A protein called fetuin-A helps prevent those particles from depositing where they should not.
This is the study that shows for the first time that amniotic fluid can also produce calciprotein particles.
In cases of preterm premature rupture of membranes, the amniotic fluid has decreased concentrations of fetuin-A, resulting in a decreased ability to stop the particles from depositing in the amniotic sac.
When researchers exposed foetal membrane cells to calciprotein particles, the particles led the foetal membrane tissue to begin creating osteoblasts, the precursors of bone.
These findings suggest that it may be possible to identify pregnancies at greater risk for premature preterm rupture of membranes, said Buhimschi.
The researchers also suggest possible interventions to prevent these kinds of preterm births.
"We need to see if there are women who lack the capacity to prevent these early calcifications. I also believe strongly that there are dietary measures that would improve the intra-amniotic environment for these women," Buhimschi added.
Preterm birth, also known as premature birth, is the birth of a baby at less than 37 weeks gestational age. Preterm babies are known as preemies or premmies.
The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
(With PTI inputs)