Surprise discovery could accelerate treatments for premature babies


Fresh insight into the biology of premature birth could guide medics to monitor and treat ‘at risk’ premature babies earlier, giving them better their life chances.

Brunel’s Telomere Biology Laboratory, The University of Kent and William Harvey Hospital’s neo natal unit searched for a genetic marker to identify “at risk” children sooner.

They compared the length of premature babies’ telomeres – caps at the end of chromosomes that degrade as people age – with those from babies born when expected.

Unexpectedly, they found babies born at the normal time had the shortest telomeres despite some evidence that premature babies’ telomeres shorten over time.

“The results were surprising in the sense that we expected shorter telomeres,” said Predrag Slijepcevic at Brunel Telomere Biology lab. “We’d expect this because preterm infants show some signs of the…

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