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Magee-Womens’ Maribeth McLaughlin Named Chair-Elect of American Hospital Association’s Maternal and Child Health Governing Council

PITTSBURGH, March 25, 2014 – Maribeth McLaughlin, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, has been named chair-elect of the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Maternal and Child Health Governing Council. She will assume the role of chair in 2015.

The governing council is comprised of 14 senior executives from the nation’s top women’s and children’s hospitals and health care providers. As a council member, Ms. McLaughlin will advise the AHA on public policy, advocacy and new issues in maternal and child health.

“The AHA leadership position will offer a tremendous opportunity to examine and analyze trends in women’s health across the nation,” said Ms. McLaughlin. “We’ll share experiences with other members on everything from nurturing a healthier workforce – to specific clinical information, such as the elective induction of births.”

“Passion for women’s health is key to this role,” said Leslie Davis, president and chief executive officer of Magee. “Maribeth is incredibly knowledgeable, well-positioned, and clearly viewed as someone to turn to for examples of best practices.”

In addition, Ms. McLaughlin recently assumed the presidency of the Council of Women’s and Infants’ Specialty Hospitals, comprised of 13 non-competing hospitals with high-volume obstetrical care, which collaborate and share information about programs, best practices and national policy.

In her role at Magee, Ms. McLaughlin has been instrumental in promoting interdisciplinary partnerships, developing evidence-based policies and procedures and standards of care, facilitating continuing quality improvement programs and ensuring patient safety and compliance.

Ms. McLaughlin received her nursing degree from Duquesne University and her Master of Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Pitt/MWRI Researchers Awarded Prestigious Cozzarelli Prize for Top Biomedical Sciences PNAS Paper of 2013

PITTSBURGH, March 7, 2014 – Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) have been awarded the Cozzarelli Prize in the biomedical sciences for a July 2013 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that showed the cells of the placenta may have a unique ability to prevent viruses from crossing from an expectant mother to her growing baby and can transfer that trait to other kinds of cells.

Senior authors Yoel Sadovsky, M.D., Elsie Hilliard Hillman Chair of Women’s Health Research, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine, Pitt School of Medicine, and MWRI director, and Carolyn Coyne, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Pitt, and MWRI member, and their research team will be honored on April 27 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., during the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting.

The annual award was established in 2005 and named in 2007 for late PNAS Editor-in-Chief Nicholas R. Cozzarelli and acknowledges papers that reflect scientific excellence and originality. Five other papers in fields including the physical and mathematical sciences; biological sciences; engineering and applied sciences; behavioral and social sciences; and applied biological, agricultural and environmental sciences that were published in PNAS in 2013 also will receive awards.

“To receive the Cozzarelli Prize is a tremendous honor,” Dr.  Sadovsky said. “Our findings revealed elegant and complex mechanisms that have evolved to keep viruses from infecting the placenta, which could help us develop therapies for other kinds of viral infections.”

“We are very proud of our research paper and are gratified that the scientific community deems our work noteworthy,” Dr. Coyne said.

For their paper, which was published on July 16, 2013, the research team studied human trophoblast cells in the lab, exposing them to a panel of viruses. Unlike non-placental cells, trophoblasts were resistant to viral infection, but that trait was not a result of an inability of viruses to bind or enter the cells. When the medium, or fluid environment, in which the trophoblasts were cultured was transferred to non-placental cells, such as those that line blood vessels, they became resistant to viral infection, too.

The team found that when the medium was exposed to sound waves in a process called sonication, viral resistance was no longer transferred to non-placental cells. This finding led them to take a closer look at exosomes, which are tiny spheres called nanovesicles that are secreted by trophoblasts and are sensitive to sonication. Fragments of genetic material called microRNAs contained within the exosomes, as well as lab-synthesized mimics of them, were able to induce autophagy, a mechanism of prolonged cellular recycling and survival. Blocking autophagy at least partially restored the cells’ vulnerability to viral infections.

“We might be able to use these microRNAs to reduce the risk of viral infection in other cells outside of pregnancy, or perhaps to treat diseases where enhancing autophagy would be beneficial,” Dr. Coyne said.

Co-authors include other researchers from MWRI; the University of Pittsburgh departments of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, Cell Biology and Physiology, and Surgery; and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

The project was funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health Research, the National Institutes of Health grants HD065893, HD071707, AI081759 and HD075665 and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

UPMC Physician First Author of Paper in New England Journal of Medicine

Jon Watchko, MD, professor of pediatrics and obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences, was the first author of a paper entitled, “Bilirubin-Induced Neurologic Damage — Mechanisms and Management Approaches.” The paper was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Approximately 85 percent of newborns are affected by neonatal unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia and the resultant clinical jaundice. In most cases this condition is generally benign and transitional, but in some newborns, unconjugated bilirubin levels can cause serious brain injury.

Dr. Watchko’s paper gives an overview of the mechanisms involved in this progression, as well as treatment interventions for the management of hyperbilirubinemia. Claudio Tiribelli, MD, PhD, from the University of Trieste in Trieste, Italy was co-author on the paper.

Low Vitamin D Levels During Pregnancy May Increase Risk of Severe Preeclampsia

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 24, 2014 – Women who are deficient in vitamin D in the first 26 weeks of their pregnancy may be at risk of developing severe preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening disorder diagnosed by an increase in blood pressure and protein in the urine, according to research by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

In one of the largest studies to date, researchers studied blood samples collected from 700 pregnant women who later developed preeclampsia in an effort to examine a woman’s vitamin D status during pregnancy and her risk of developing preeclampsia. The full study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is available online in the journal Epidemiology, and will publish in the March print issue.

“For decades, vitamin D was known as a nutrient that was important only for bone health,” said lead author Lisa Bodnar, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., associate professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “Over the past 10 to 15 years, scientists have learned that vitamin D has diverse functions in the body beyond maintaining the skeleton, including actions that may be important for maintaining a healthy pregnancy.”

Dr. Bodnar and her colleagues also studied blood samples from 3,000 mothers who did not develop preeclampsia. The samples were collected between 1959 and 1965 at 12 U.S. sites enrolled in the Collaborative Perinatal Project. The blood was well-preserved, and researchers were able to test for vitamin D levels decades later.

Scientists controlled for factors that could have affected a woman’s vitamin D status, including race, pre-pregnancy body mass index, number of previous pregnancies, smoking, diet, physical activity and sunlight exposure, which is the body’s primary source of vitamin D.

The researchers found that vitamin D sufficiency was associated with a 40 percent reduction in risk of severe preeclampsia. But there was no relationship between vitamin D and mild preeclampsia. The overall risk of severe preeclampsia in the women sampled was 0.6 percent, regardless of vitamin D status.

“Scientists believe that severe preeclampsia and mild preeclampsia have different root causes,” said senior author Mark A. Klebanoff, M.D., M.P.H., Center for Perinatal Research at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Severe preeclampsia poses much higher health risks to the mother and child, so linking it with a factor that we can easily treat, like vitamin D deficiency, holds great potential.”

“If our results hold true in a modern sample of pregnant women, then further exploring the role of vitamin D in reducing the risk of preeclampsia would be warranted,” said Dr. Bodnar. “Until then, women shouldn’t automatically take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy as a result of these findings.”

Additional co-authors include: Hyagriv N. Simhan, M.D., Janet M. Catov, Ph.D., James M. Roberts, M.D., and Jill C. Diesel, M.P.H., all of the University of Pittsburgh; and Robert W. Platt, Ph.D., of McGill University.

This research was supported by NIH grant HD 056999.

Pitt-Led Microbicide Trials Network Awarded $70 Million Over Seven Years to Develop, Test HIV Prevention Products

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 17, 2013 – With funding of $70 million to support its effort into 2021, the Microbicide Trials Network (MTN) will continue to develop and test products that aim to reduce the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, federal officials announced yesterday. The extensive program, which is based at the University of Pittsburgh and Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI), has completed 13 trials since 2006; 11 more are in progress or will begin within the year; and several new studies will be designed and implemented during the next funding period.

The MTN was created in 2006 with funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), as well as the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Mental Health, all part of the National Institutes of Health. The new funding means the MTN will continue to serve as one of five NIAID HIV/AIDS clinical trials networks for the next seven years. The MTN  brings together international investigators and community and industry partners whose work is focused on the development and rigorous evaluation of promising microbicides, which are products applied inside the vagina or rectum that are intended to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV.

“Although progress in the field of HIV prevention and treatment has been nothing short of breathtaking over the last decade, there are two groups who continue to have high rates of new HIV infections – young women and men who have sex with men. The MTN is focused on developing products to address their unmet needs.,” said co-principal investigator Sharon Hillier, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for faculty affairs, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and an MWRI member. “To address the HIV epidemic in young women, we currently are conducting a large Phase III trial of a vaginal ring that women use for a month at a time. Moving forward, we are committed to developing products that could prevent both HIV and unwanted pregnancy, which would empower young women to take charge of their own reproductive health.”

Another high-priority research area is to address the unmet need for new HIV prevention products for use by men who have sex with men, transgender women, and heterosexual women who have anal sex, said co-principal investigator Ian McGowan, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Pitt School of Medicine, and an MWRI member.

“Ultimately, we want to identify a lubricant-like product that both men and women can use to protect themselves from acquiring HIV during anal sex,” he said. “Our entire scientific agenda is focused on conducting the kind of studies that can get safe and effective HIV prevention products approved for widespread use, whether these be vaginal or rectal microbicides. Clearly, we can’t end the HIV epidemic with condoms alone.”

The MTN is composed of three major components: a leadership and operations center, which is led by Drs. Hillier and McGowan; a laboratory center, based at MWRI and led by Charlene Dezzutti, Ph.D., associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, Pitt School of Medicine; and a statistical data and management center based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The $70 million from NIAID supports the work of the MTN’s leadership and operations center and the laboratory center.

The network is affiliated with more than 25 clinical research sites in Africa, North America, South America and Asia, which are part of NIAID-funded clinical trials units (CTUs).

NIAID officials also announced today that Pitt has been awarded a seven-year, $8.7 million grant to continue as one of 37 CTUs for HIV/AIDS research. The CTUs are responsible for implementing the scientific agendas of NIAID’s networks. John Mellors, M.D., professor of medicine and chief, division of infectious diseases, Pitt School of Medicine, is the principal investigator for the unit, which will oversee MTN studies conducted at Pitt and studies of the AIDS Clinical Trial Group (ACTG), another NIH-funded clinical trials network, at research sites at Pitt and Ohio State University. Dr. Mellors also leads the virology cores of the MTN’s and ACTG’s laboratory centers and the ACTG’s efforts to cure HIV infection.

The MTN leadership and operations center is supported by NIAID grant UM1AI068633. The laboratory center is supported by NIAID grant UM1AI106707.

Recent Reproductive Coercion Associated with Unintended Pregnancy, Says Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Expert

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 10, 2013 – Birth control sabotage and pressure to become pregnant by male partners, also called “reproductive coercion,” in the past three months is associated with recent unintended pregnancy among adolescent and young adult females utilizing reproductive health services, according to a Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC study that will appear today in the online version of Contraception.

The study adds to the growing body of research on how abusive relationships increase young women’s risk for pregnancies that are unwanted and unplanned, said lead investigator Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., chief, Division of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s.

“More than half of the pregnancies in the United States are unintended and can result in poor health for mothers and their infants,” said Dr. Miller, also an associate professor of pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “We need to pay attention to ways in which male partners may influence women’s reproductive decisions. Clinicians providing reproductive health care should discuss reproductive coercion in addition to physical and sexual violence in relationships to help women reduce their risk for pregnancies that are mistimed, unwanted, or unplanned.”

More than 3,600 English and Spanish-speaking women ages 16 to 29 at 24 family planning clinics in western Pennsylvania from October 2011 to November 2012 agreed to respond to a computerized survey about their experiences with relationships and pregnancy. They were asked questions about birth control sabotage, pregnancy coercion, and intimate partner violence, including the questions: “Has someone you were dating or going out with ever taken off the condom while you were having sex so that you would get pregnant?” and “Has someone you were dating or going out with ever told you not to use any birth control?”

Five percent of respondents reported reproductive coercion in the past three months and 12 percent reported an unintended pregnancy in the past year. Among those who reported recent reproductive coercion, 21 percent reported an unintended pregnancy in the past year. The association occurred independently of any history of reported physical or sexual violence in the relationship.

“The finding that reproductive coercion occurring around the time of a clinical encounter is associated with increased risk for unintended pregnancy, independent of physical or sexual violence, provides critical evidence in support of reproductive health providers assessing for reproductive coercion in addition to physical and sexual violence during routine reproductive health visits,” said Jay Silverman, Ph.D., professor of medicine and global health at the University of California, San Diego, a co-principal investigator and senior author of this study.

“Health professionals should ask about both reproductive coercion and violence in relationships during clinical encounters with their female patients and offer women longer-acting, reversible contraceptives, as well as referrals to domestic violence services, to help decrease their risk for pregnancies that are unwanted and increase their options for safety,” said Dr. Miller. “At the same time, we need to redouble our efforts to educate adolescents and young adults that behaviors like interfering with someone’s birth control or refusing to use condoms are not aspects of a healthy, respectful relationship.”

The findings also highlight the importance of clinics that provide reproductive health services as sites for identification, assessment and interventions for young women to reduce harm related to intimate partner violence and reproductive coercion. These clinical settings can serve as a connection to support services and prevention education to increase women’s safety and reduce pregnancy risk.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant R01HD064407.

Collaborators with Dr. Miller on the study were: Heather L. McCauley, Sc.D., Sc.M., and Heather A. Anderson, B.S., both of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC; Daniel J. Tancredi, Ph.D., UC Davis School of Medicine and Center for Healthcare Policy and Research; Michele R. Decker, Sc.D., Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Jay G. Silverman, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

For more information on Dr. Miller, visit www.chp.edu.

Magee Surgeon First in the Region to Perform a Robotic Single-Site Hysterectomy

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 15, 2013 Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC recently became the first hospital in western Pennsylvania to perform a hysterectomy through a single incision using robotic technology. This nearly scar-free surgical option provides women with a state-of-the-art, minimally invasive approach to gynecological surgery.

Alexander Olawaiye, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist at Magee, last week performed a hysterectomy by removing the patient’s uterus through one incision in the belly button. He and his team performed the hysterectomy using the da Vinci® surgical system.

Prior to advances in first laparoscopic, and now robotic, surgery, women requiring hysterectomy could sometimes take weeks to recover, and they often had significant scarring on their abdomens.

Recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, single-site robotic surgery offers the traditional benefits of minimally invasive surgery, including shorter recovery times, smaller incisions, less pain and blood loss, and shorter hospital stays. It also provides the additional benefit of a single incision site, so women are left with one, nearly invisible scar.

“Performing hysterectomies robotically, when appropriate, allows us the ability to conduct complex surgeries in a minimally invasive way,” said Dr. Olawaiye. “Robotic, single-site hysterectomy offers a reduction in pain and recovery time, and comes with the added benefit of minimal scarring.”

Magee surgeons regularly perform bariatric, gynecologic and urologic surgeries robotically. Recently, Magee acquired a second robot to meet the hospital’s growing surgical demands.

“At Magee, the ability to provide women in western Pennsylvania a variety of advanced surgical options and experienced surgeons is part of our commitment to the best possible health of our patients,” added Dr. Olawaiye.

Compounded Medication to Prevent Preterm Birth Not a Safety Risk, Pitt Study Confirms

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 4, 2013 – A new study published online today in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy reports that 17-hydroxyprogesterone caproate (17-OHPC), a medication that reduces the rate of preterm birth in high-risk women, did not raise any safety concerns when the medication was prepared and dispensed by independent compounding pharmacies throughout the United States.

17-OHPC has been proven to reduce the risk of preterm births in women with a clinical history of early delivery by one-third. Until recently, this medication was available only from independent compounding pharmacies with a cost of $10 to $15 per injection. A pharmaceutical company in February 2011 received FDA approval to license the medication under the name Makena and established the price at $1500 per injection. The public outcry that followed led the FDA to issue a statement that it would not enforce action against compounding pharmacies that continued to produce and provide the medication.

Since then, researchers from the company that markets Makena, published a report suggesting compounded 17-OHPC poses a risk to patients because of the potential for drug impurity and inconsistent potency. The FDA conducted its own study and could not identify any safety problems with the drug, but decided it would apply its normal enforcement policy on compounding the product.

Researchers from Pitt’s School of Medicine and School of Pharmacy conducted an independent study to determine the quality of 17-OHPC obtained from compounding pharmacies across the country. Specialists in treating high-risk pregnancy supplied a representative sample of the compounded 17-OHPC used in their practices. Eighteen samples of compounded 17-OHPC were obtained from 15 pharmacies and analyzed at Pitt.

“Contrary to the report provided by the company that markets Makena, we found that 17-OHPC from compounding pharmacies raised no safety concerns about drug potency, sterility or purity,” said Steve N. Caritis, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Pitt, and the study’s corresponding author. Dr. Caritis cautioned, however, that the sample size was small and the findings cannot be applied to all compounded products or pharmacies.

“If a compounding pharmacy is used for preparation of 17-OHPC, a discussion with the pharmacy preparing the product is prudent, to assure production of a high-quality product,” Dr. Caritis said.

The research was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, grant number HD047905.

In addition to Dr. Caritis, Pitt’s research team included Justine Chang, M.D., Yang Zhao, Ph.D., Wen Chen Zhao, M.S., and Raman Venkataramanan, Ph.D.

Women Report Better Sexual Health after Weight-Loss Surgery, Researchers Find

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 4, 2013 Researchers measuring the changes in sexual function and sex hormone levels in women following bariatric surgery have found that, on average, women reported significant improvements in overall sexual functioning and satisfaction.

The findings are published online in the Nov. 4 issue of JAMA Surgery and will be presented on Nov. 14 at Obesity Week in Atlanta.

“Thirteen percent of the participants who reported sexual dysfunction before undergoing weight loss surgery saw dramatic improvement in function after surgery,” said Nicholas Christian, Ph.D., a biostatistician, Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, who analyzed the data for the study. “Another 53 percent saw a modest improvement, on average.”

The study used data collected from the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (LABS) consortium, which has its data coordinating center at Pitt Public Health, and 10 hospitals with a large clinical center at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. In particular, a subset of the data looks at the long-term effects of bariatric surgery on the weight of study participants, as well as on their physical and mental health.

Researchers recruited 106 of the women who were part of the larger LABS-2 study at the clinical sites in Pittsburgh and Fargo, N.D., to participate in this additional ancillary study. In addition to the LABS forms assessing quality of life and depression, the women answered questions focusing on their perception of their body image and their sexual health, and gave blood samples.

Sexual function significantly improved from before surgery to the first year post surgery. By the second year, women reported improvements in arousal, lubrication, desires and satisfaction. They also had significant improvements in sex hormone levels.

In addition to improved sexual function, the women reported significant improvements in quality of life, as well as body image and depression symptoms.

“Our results explore other important aspects of health and suggest that improvements in sexual functioning in women can be added to the long list of benefits seen in the first several years after bariatric surgery,” said co-author Anita Courcoulas, M.D., M.P.H., a bariatric and general surgeon at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

The study’s lead author is David Sarwer, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania. Additional authors include Jacqueline C. Spitzer, M.S.Ed., and Thomas A. Wadden, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania; James E. Mitchell, M.D., and Kathryn Lancaster, B.A., both of the University of North Dakota; William Gourash, M.S.N., C.R.N.P., of UPMC; and Raymond C. Rosen, Ph.D., of the New England Research Institutes.

The ancillary study to the LABS-2 was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases grant RO1DKO72452.

Low Vitamin D Levels During Pregnancy Associated with Preterm Birth in Non-White Mothers

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 30, 2013 – African-American and Puerto Rican women who have low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy are more likely to go into labor early and give birth to preterm babies, research led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health reveals.

The study, the largest to date to look at the association between vitamin D and preterm birth, is now available online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“Vitamin D is unique in that while we get it from our diets, our primary source is our body making it from sunlight,” said lead author Lisa Bodnar, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., associate professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “Previous studies using conservative definitions for vitamin D deficiency have found that nearly half of black women and about 5 percent of white women in the United States have vitamin D concentrations that are too low.”

Among non-white mothers, the incidence of spontaneous, preterm birth – naturally going into labor two or more weeks before the 37 weeks of pregnancy considered full-term – decreased by as much as 30 percent as vitamin D levels in the blood increased.

Dr. Bodnar and her co-authors, whose work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, did not find a similar relationship between maternal vitamin D levels and preterm birth in white women.

“We were concerned that finding this association only in non-white women meant that other factors we did not measure accounted for the link between low vitamin D levels and spontaneous preterm birth in black and Puerto Rican mothers,” said Dr. Bodnar. She and her co-authors used methods to account for the expected influence of discrimination and socioeconomic position, as well as fish intake and physical activity. “Even after applying these methods, vitamin D deficiency remained associated with spontaneous preterm birth.”

“Preterm birth is the most important problem in modern obstetrics,” said senior author Hyagriv N. Simhan, M.D., M.S., chief of the division of maternal-fetal medicine and medical director of obstetrical services at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. “In 2010, over 1 million infants born preterm at less than 37 weeks gestation died worldwide. Preterm infants who survive are at risk of chronic lung disease, deafness, blindness or other visual impairment, and learning and cognitive disability.”

A novel part of the study was the availability of information from placental examinations. The researchers found that vitamin D deficiency was most strongly related to preterm births with damage to the placenta caused by inflammation.

“This finding may give us insight into the biology connecting low vitamin D and preterm birth,” Dr. Simhan said. “It holds great promise and will motivate significant preterm birth research.”

The researchers used a sample of over 700 cases of preterm birth and 2,600 full-term births collected by the Collaborative Perinatal Project, which was conducted in 12 U.S. medical centers from 1959 to 1965. The blood samples collected by the project were well-preserved and able to be tested for vitamin D levels 40 years later.

“It is critical to repeat this study in a modern sample,” said Dr. Bodnar, noting that pregnant women today smoke less, have less sun-exposure and receive more vitamin D in their foods than the mid-century cohort. “Further, it is especially important to understand how vitamin D influences preterm birth among black mothers. Vitamin D supplementation could be an easy way to reduce the high rates of preterm birth in this group.”

Co-authors on this research include Alison D. Gernand, Ph.D., Janet M. Catov, Ph.D., and W. Tony Parks, M.D., all of the University of Pittsburgh; Mark A. Klebanoff, M.D., of the Ohio State University; and Robert W. Platt, Ph.D., of McGill University.

This work was supported by NIH grant HD 056999.

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