British scientists may have found the cause of pre-term premature rupture of fetal membranes (PPROM), which accounts for 40 per cent of pre-term births worldwide, and often leads to the infant's death. The study, which was carried out by researchers from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and University College London (UCL), was presented in "Placenta".

The researchers discovered that stretching the amniotic membrane leads to the overproduction of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which is damaging to both the cells and the mechanical structure of the tissue. In turn, the protein connexin 43 (Cx43) reacts to this overextension, which reduces the mechanical properties of the membrane even more. According to the researchers, this probably leads to premature rupture and pre-term birth.

Hence, the researchers believe to have found an approach to prevent many pre-term births. "Our findings have provided a new understanding of why pregnant women who have pre-term contractions go on to rupture their membranes early", said co-author Anna David.