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Role of Cervical Immune Tissue in Preterm Birth


Each year, approximately 1 out of 9 women deliver their baby preterm, prior to 37 weeks of gestation. At this time, it is very difficult to predict which women are at an elevated risk for preterm birth. Without being able to identify these women, we cannot develop therapies that in the future might be able to prevent preterm birth. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology are very interested in studying the causes of preterm birth and methods to identify women who are at an elevated risk for preterm birth. 

The cervix is a specialized region of the female reproductive tract. The cervix connects to the uterus (womb) and opens into the vagina. Therefore, what happens in the cervicovaginal space has the ability to effect the cervix and alter how both the cervix and uterus function. The cervix is made up of many types of cells, one of those being immune cells (similar to white blood cells). We know that immune cells fight infection and protect other organs from disease, but we currently do not know the role that immune cells play in the cervix to prevent or cause preterm birth. 

The human body contains trillions on tiny organisms, such as bacteria that depend on our bodies to live. While these bacteria are important for health and are usually not harmful, health problems can occur if there are too many or not enough of certain types of bacteria. In other parts of our body immune cells react to the bacteria that are present in that space. We currently do not know how immune cells respond to bacteria that routinely live in the cervicovaginal space. We believe that the interaction between immune cells and bacteria in the cervicovaginal space might change how and when the cervix softens for labor. 

The purpose of this study is to determine whether certain kinds of bacteria and immune cells in the cervix are associated with preterm birth.


Contact Information: 215-964-8477

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