Our research focuses on parturition, the process of birth. A better understanding of this process is required to devise therapies to prevent preterm birth which occurs in 12.5 percent of pregnancies in this country.
Specifically we are interested in the molecular events throughout pregnancy that bring about remodeling of the cervix from a closed rigid structure to one that expands sufficiently to allow passage of a term fetus.
The cervix is a connective tissue, and collagen is its major structural protein. A disorganization of the collagen structure due to processing of collagen and changes in the composition of the extracellular matrix are critical for the progressive increase in tissue compliance at term.
Research in our lab focuses on understanding processes that regulate the change in collagen structure which include collagen fiber assembly along with changes in matricellular proteins, proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans.
Our studies also focus on the endocrine events that initiate cervical remodeling, the role of cervical epithelia in barrier protection and the role of inflammatory cells in this process.
These studies are carried out in normal mice and mice with defects in normal cervical ripening.
More recently, we have begun to use the insights gained from understanding the normal biology of the pregnant cervix to develop tools that may be used clinically to stage cervical ripening and predict risk of preterm birth.