Research themes must meet a set of essential criteria:
• Address a research target that is likely to be crucial to the prevention of preterm birth.
• Generate or refine new technologies that could lead to important new discoveries regarding preterm birth.
• Leverage the expertise and resources available across all University of Chicago, Northwestern, Duke and partner institutions.
• Provide a strong foundation for transdisciplinary collaboration.
The March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center UChicago-Northwestern-Duke will address five interrelated transdisiciplinary research themes:
Evolutionary Systems Genetics By studying the evolution of pregnancy across multiple species, this theme will identify genes that are important in human pregnancy. It will also functionally characterize maternal and fetal genes that are critical for maternal-fetal interactions and induction of spontaneous labor.
Regulatory Genetic Variation and Networks in Preterm Birth This theme will study how the regulatory elements (identified in Theme 1) are altered in preterm birth, compared to pregnancies carried to full term.
Transcriptional and Epigenetic Reponses to Maternal Stress This theme will test the hypotheses that maternal lifelong and/or perinatal stress is correlated with epigenetic changes and that alterations of gene expression in maternal cervical cells and fetal placental cells.
Novel Cell Models of Pregnancy By using a revolutionary new cell type called induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cell, researchers in this theme will create maternal decidua cells and fetal placenta cells from skin and blood samples of mother and fetus, and then model them in a culture dish to see the actual interaction between mother and baby.