In June of 2015, the March of Dimes joined with the University of Chicago, Northwestern and Duke to launch the fifth prematurity research center aimed exclusively at finding the unknown causes of premature birth. This demonstrates the commitment and enthusiasm of accomplished directors, investigators and faculty as they come together in this transdisciplinary and cross-institutional effort to solve the mysteries of premature birth. This team will collaborate with the other four centers as they pursue the challenging questions of what causes premature birth, and specifically address five interrelated transdisciplinary research themes around gene regulation.

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:

Greg CrawfordM NobregaRegulatory Systems Across Reproductive Tissues and Cells This theme will determine the regulatory elements controlling the genes that govern human pregnancy, including gestational length.

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Theme 1 Leaders and Co-Investigators>

V Lynch 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.

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Theme 2 Leaders and Co-Investigators>

C Ober 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.

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Theme 3 Leaders and Co-Investigators & Collaborating>


C OberX HeTranscriptional 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. 


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Theme 4 Leaders and Co-Investigators>

J Kessler 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.  

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Theme 5 Leaders and Co-Investigators>