Discovery of molecule responsible for birth timing could lead to preterm labour prevention

Researchers have identified that the activation of the TLR4 molecule is key in controlling the timing of birth, acting as a trigger common to both preterm and on-time labour.
In pregnant TLR4-deficient (Tlr4-/-) mice, average gestation length was extended by 13 hours and increased perinatal mortality was seen compared to wild-type controls. 
Administration of TLR4 ligand lipopolysaccharide to pregnant wild-type mice induced cytokine expression and fetal loss, while Tlr4-/- pregnancies were protected. 
Author says that there are other factors that lead to a surge in TLR4 and premature birth, including local bacteria infections, damage to the placenta due to inflammation, or even multiple pregnancy.
"While this is yet to be looked at in a clinical setting, we believe this finding will ultimately lead to methods to effectively protect women at risk of going into labour early," author says.