The results of a study by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch may pave the way for a new medicine delivery system that could reduce the incidence of pre-term labor and premature birth by allowing physicians to treat the ‘fetus as the patient’. The study has been published in Science Advances.
It has long been suspected that pre-term labor is triggered by inflammation caused by a sick fetus. A new study by scientists at UTMB has proved the hypothesis by studying several important assumptions about the relationship between the health of a mother and her unborn child.
According to Dr. Ramkumar Menon, a Professor in UTMB’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Cell Biology, his team worked with ILIAS Biologics, Inc., a South Korean biotechnology company, to test their bioengineered exosomes as a delivery system for anti-inflammatory medicine directly to the fetus.
“Exosomes are natural nanoparticles or vesicles in our bodies, and we have trillions of them circulating through us at all times. By packaging the medicine inside a bioengineered exosome and injecting it into the mother intravenously, the exosomes travel through the blood system, cross the placental barrier and arrive in the fetus, where they deliver the medicine,” explains Dr. Menon.
In laboratory tests with mice, there were several steps prior to testing the drug delivery. First, Menon said it was important to prove that fetal cells, specifically immune cells, actually migrated through the mother’s body to her uterine tissues as well as to her, which can cause inflammation, the leading cause of pre-term labor.