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Inter-Institutional Program for Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Sciences – A translational approach to studying Preterm Birth

The Department is in the process of embarking on an Inter-institutional program entitled “Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Sciences: A Translational approach to study Preterm Birth (PTB)” during the current financial year.

The emphasis of this multidisciplinary research effort is to predict & diagnose Preterm Birth (PTB) by enhancing the understanding of the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms, which would facilitate use of existing or novel therapeutic agents & appropriate timing of clinical intervention. It is envisaged that the clinically relevant research outputs from the proposed study will be appropriate characterization of biological, clinical and epidemiological risk factors to achieve appropriate risk stratification of mothers who may deliver before term. More specifically, the aim would be evaluation of putative biomarkers, identification of simple microbiological tool based vaginal risk factors, modulation of vaginal microbiota for therapeutic purposes and evaluation of environmental modification chosen from SNP analysis. In addition, it is envisioned to elucidate causal biological risks and processes of fetal growth and the clinical consequences of PTB and intra uterine growth retardation, most of which are of major public health consequence.

The success of such an interdisciplinary research program highly depends on active cross-talk among scientists of various disciplines and accordingly the program has emphasis on cross-disciplinary platform that will bridge expertise from disparate fields, such as, pediatrics, gynecology, infectious disease biology, epidemiology, microbiology, immunology, platform technologies, cellular & molecular biology, genetics, statistics and computational & systems biology to create important knowledge-driven interventions and technologies that can be sustainably implemented in clinical practice and in the community.

The initial step will be to establish a hospital-based cohort of pregnant women starting from the first trimester, each of whom will be followed up until delivery. The first set of goals and objectives would focus on genomic, epigenomic and proteomic associations with PTB, relationship of micro-biome landscape of vagina to PTB. The data collected in the current study will be analyzed in an integrative manner in generating new knowledge about the possible mechanisms and etiology of PTB.

This cohort would also serve as a platform for wider and larger research programs. Investigators, who may or may not belong to the initial phases of this program, will be encouraged to develop additional research questions through discussions using a trans-disciplinary approach. The data and bio-specimens longitudinally collected on enrolled women and the child will serve as resource for such studies. Creation of this resource will also reduce time and cost for the conduct of future research in this area.