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Gomez-Lopez receives award to study pregnancy complications

Burroughs Wellcome Fund to support research on maternal-fetal interface, method to predict preterm labor, birth

June 26, 2024

Nardhy Gomez-Lopez, PhD, a professor of obstetrics & gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has received a four-year, $500,000 award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to further research into the immunobiology of the maternal-fetal interface and identify biomarkers to predict preterm labor and birth.

One in 10 babies is born prematurely and, in many cases, it’s not known why. Nearly 40% of pregnant people who deliver before 37 weeks of pregnancy have chronic placental inflammation – a condition in which the parent’s immune cells attack the baby’s placenta. As part of the award, Gomez-Lopez aims to find blood biomarkers that can be used to identify inflamed placentas and thereby help predict the risk of preterm labor. Diagnosing individuals at risk of preterm labor will allow physicians to provide them with medical attention to delay labor, preventing preterm birth.

The award also will enable the team to explore the contribution of immune cells, residing at the interface between the fetal placenta and the parent’s uterus, in pregnant people with chronic placental inflammation and begin to uncover its effects on the fetus.

Gomez-Lopez is one of seven researchers selected for the 2024 Next Gen Pregnancy Initiative by the nonprofit organization.