Preterm birth is defined as childbirth before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. It is the
leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality, leading to high costs in care and long-term disability. It accounts for 5-12 % of all live births worldwide. Multiple factors, both endogenous and exogenous to the mother seem to play a role. Genetic factors appear to be involved, as apparent from disparities between racial groups and on familial aggregation. The best predictor is a previous preterm birth. Several associations between changes in genes and the risk of preterm birth have been suggested, but proven variants have not been found. A limitation in the research is lack of knowledge about the role of the placenta. Identifying genes critical to placental functioning could uncover the mechanisms underlying normal and complicated pregnancies. Unique forms of gene expression are found in the placenta. This project will explore genetic factors using the placenta as a critical organ in pregnancy and labor. Expected outcomes include possible diagnostic approaches to predict women at risk of preterm birth and identification of biological pathways to identify associated environmental factors as targets for treatment and/or prevention strategies.