Chief of the National Institutes of Health\'s Perinatology Research Branch at Wayne State University named Crain\'s Detroit Business Health Care Hero

August 9, 2010

DETROIT-Crain's Detroit Business announced today its 2010 Health Care Heroes. Roberto Romero, M.D., chief of the Perinatology Research Branch (PRB) at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health located at Wayne State University was selected for his leadership and innovations in advancing health care.

Roberto Romero

Romero leads a research team that has discovered that genetics plays a significant role in some preterm births and may explain why some women who do everything right still give birth too soon.

According to Romero, inflammation is a major risk factor for preterm birth, the leading cause of infant death worldwide. One out of every three preterm births is associated with inflammation or infection. However, numerous studies have shown that treating bacterial infections in pregnant women doesn't prevent preterm labor.

Under Romero's leadership, his team investigated genes that control maternal fetal inflammation that could help explain the process that triggers preterm birth. The research found variations in the DNA of the pregnant woman and the fetus involved in fighting infection are associated with an increased risk of premature birth.

This research gives evidence to the relationship between genetics and preterm birth and is a step toward personalized medicine. It also has the potential to allow doctors to identify women who are at risk for delivering early and provide them with specialized care.

Romero is leading other major research studies through the PRB, including one that discovered a biomarker to identify pregnant women developing preeclampsia. Other studies include developing a nanotechnology-based diagnostic and therapeutic approach for prevention and treatment of maternal infections and fetal brain injury that may one day eliminate or lessen the incidences of cerebral palsy, along with other neuroinflammatory diseases.

"Through the PRB under Romero's leadership, Detroit is becoming known as a leader in perinatology research," said Hilary Ratner, vice president for research at WSU. "Detroit has high incidences of premature births and pregnancy-related problems, and this groundbreaking research will lead to healthier outcomes for mothers and infants in Detroit and around the world. He is most deserving of this award from Crain's Detroit Business."

Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit