A protein released from the lungs of a developing mouse fetus initiates a cascade of chemical events leading to the mothers initiation of labor, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have found.
From left, Dr. Carole Mendelson, Dr. Jennifer Condon and Dr. Pancharatnam Jeyasuria have found evidence that a substance secreted by the lungs of a developing fetus contains the key signal that initiates labor.
The research, which has implications for humans, marks the first time a link between a specific fetal lung protein and labor has been identified, said Dr. Carole Mendelson, professor of biochemistry and obstetrics and gynecology and senior author of the study. The paper appears in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is currently available online.
The initiation of term labor is carefully timed to begin only after the embryo is sufficiently mature to survive outside the womb. Previous studies suggested that the signal for labor in humans may arise from the fetus, but the nature of the signal and actual mechanism was unclear, Dr. Mendelson said.
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