Imagine if one day in the near future, premature births could be prevented? Well, we may not need to imagine for very long. According to new research, it might someday be possible to vaccinate against a premature birth and related complications.
However, there is already a slight problem to this possible vaccine. Since foetal tissue contains DNA inherited from both the mother and father, there may be raised risk of the mom’s immune system confusing the foetus as a foreign invader that should be rejected. This will then defeat the purpose and result in a premature birth, the authors of the study say.
But this is merely a possibility, as in most cases this doesn’t actually happen – and the baby is carried to term.
According to the team of researchers from the University of Minnesota and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center — it may all be because of CD4 T cells.
When a woman becomes pregnant, her immune system stimulates CD4 T cells, which prevent the mom’s immune system from attacking foetal tissue, and make sure that there is a successful pregnancy.
“Current vaccines exclusively target immune-activating T cells,” Dr Sing Sing Way, study senior author and a physician researcher in infectious diseases at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, was quoted as saying in a news release from the hospital. “With the polio vaccine, for example, vaccination is designed to induce long-lasting immune-activating cells that eradicate the virus with later infection,” he added.
But according to Way, a pregnancy vaccine would activate immune-suppressing T cells in order to prevent the elimination of a foetus. But so far, the test vaccine has only been used on mice.
Even though research with animals often fails to produce similar results with humans, the researchers are sure that their findings will be useful in developing a future vaccine for humans.