HONOLULU—HI– Approximately 15 million babies are born preterm yearly with more than 1 million of them dying throughout the world. Unfortunately, premature birth is a significant problem in the islands, disproportionately affecting Native Hawaiian populations. Recognizing the health burdens and suffering to mothers and their children caused by prematurity, Chaminade scientists have made pre-term births a major research focus.

The Natural Science and Mathematics Division at Chaminade University recently announced the publication of a major scientific study addressing the causes of the pre-term birth process.  The research describes a new mechanism for how amniotic fluid (the fluid that bathes the baby in utero) could be controlled during pregnancy and describes a new model for how to study this problem in humans.

“This work is important because when the levels of this fluid get too high or too low, babies become distressed and are delivered early. Currently there is no effective treatment for the disorder,” explained Dr. Claire Wright, assistant professor of Biology at Chaminade. “The current treatments for conditions of fluid dysregulation are either to remove some from the amniotic cavity (which is risky and highly invasive) or if there is not enough to just monitor the baby for signs of fetal distress and then deliver if the attending considers the baby at risk.”

Chaminade has a research program in women’s health funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Disparities, a part of the National Institutes of Health. “We recruited Dr. Wright and her team in order to build our research center, which is focused on diseases like obesity, cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems and pre-term birth that are health disparities in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands,” said Dr. Helen Turner, Chaminade’s dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “Pre-term birth disproportionately affects women from our Hawaiian, Filipina and Samoan communities, and we are trying to figure out why.”

Wright joined Chaminade in September 2011 after training in for her PhD and post-doctoral work in London and a seven-year period performing research in JABSOM’s renowned women’s health program. “This research is truly collaborative. Dr. Wright is supported by scientific colleagues at JABSOM such as co-author Dr. Abby Collier, and clinical partners at Kapiolani Medical Center,” said Dr. Turner. “Everyone is playing as a team to address this problem for Hawaii’s women.”

The research team at Chaminade University included Dr. Claire Wright, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Joshua Astern and Dr. Abby Collier (a collaborating researcher from JABSOM). The journal publication, Placenta is ranked seventh out of 80 journals in this field of biology.

The scientific paper “Pre-B Cell Colony Enhancing Factor (PBEF/NAMPT/Visfatin) And Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) Cooperate to Increase the Permeability of the Human Placental Amnion,” was accepted in October by the journal, Placenta (DOI: 10.1016/j.placenta.2012.10.008). Reprints are available to the community by emailing Dr. Wright at Claire.Wright@Chaminade.edu.

Educating students for life, service and successful careers, Chaminade University is a Catholic/ Marianist university offering programs of study grounded in the liberal arts with day, evening, online and accelerated courses. A Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander serving institution, Chaminade is located at 3140 Waialae Ave., Honolulu, HI 9681, which is its main campus. It also has nine satellite locations around Oahu. Chaminade University is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and looks forward to increased opportunities to promote environmental sustainability. For more information, visit the Chaminade Web site at www.chaminade.edu or call (808) 735-4711. ###

Media Contact: Kapono Ryan
(808) 735-4797