February 2, 2016

New Research Uses Nanotechnology to Prevent Preterm Birth

(February 2, 2016)  Using nanoparticles to engineer a special drug, a team of researchers has demonstrated in mice a new way to both reduce preterm birth and avoid the risks of medication in pregnancy to unborn babies.

Jerrie S. Refuerzo, M.D., of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston (UTHealth) was frustrated with the limitations of existing tocolytic (anti-contraction or labor-repressant) medications such as indomethacin in treating women experiencing preterm labor.  These drugs can cross the placental barrier and cause a heart defect or other problems in the fetus. Dr. Refuerzo and Monica Longo, M.D., Ph.D. (UT Health), in collaboration with colleagues from Houston Methodist Research Institute, Biana Godin, PharmD, Ph.D., bioengineered an innovative microscopic nanoparticle of indomethacin aimed at reaching the pregnant uterus but not crossing the placenta to the fetus. This targeted liposomal indomethacin, called LIPINDORA, was coated with an oxytocin receptor antagonist to make it bind to uterine tissue.

LIPINDORA was given to near-term pregnant mice and the researchers found that the treated mice were significantly less likely than controls to have preterm uterine contractions or to deliver prematurely.

“These findings are exciting because we don’t currently have any medication that can reliably stop contractions or prevent preterm birth without also crossing the mom’s placenta and causing risks to babies,” explained Edward R. B. McCabe, M.D., Ph.D,, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the March of Dimes.

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