Open Access Correspondence

An integrated systems biology approach to the study of preterm birth using "-omic" technology - a guideline for research

Sara Gracie1, Craig Pennell2, Gunvor Ekman-Ordeberg3, Stephen Lye4, James McManaman5, Scott Williams6, Lyle Palmer7, Maureen Kelley89, Ram Menon10, Michael Gravett119* and the PREBIC "-Omics" Research Group

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

2 School of Women's and Infants' Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

3 Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Department of Women's and Children's Health, Karolinska University Hospital and Karolinkska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

4 Samuel Lunefeld Research Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

5 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Section of Basic Reproductive Sciences, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado, USA

6 Center for Human Genetics Research, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

7 Ontario Institute for Cancer Research Toronto, Ontario, Canada

8 Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine and Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics, Seattle, Washington, USA

9 Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth, an initiative of Seattle Children's, Seattle, Washington, USA

10 Department of Epidemiology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia and The Perinatal Research Center, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

11 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2011, 11:71  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-11-71

Published: 12 October 2011


Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal mortality and perinatal morbidity. The etiology of preterm is multi-factorial and still unclear. As evidence increases for a genetic contribution to PTB, so does the need to explore genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics in its study. This review suggests research guidelines for the conduct of high throughput systems biology investigations into preterm birth with the expectation that this will facilitate the sharing of samples and data internationally through consortia, generating the power needed to study preterm birth using integrated "-omics" technologies. The issues to be addressed include: (1) integrated "-omics" approaches, (2) phenotyping, (3) sample collection, (4) data management-integrative databases, (5) international consortia and (6) translational feasibility. This manuscript is the product of discussions initiated by the "-Omics" Working Group at the Preterm Birth International Collaborative Meeting held at the World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland in April 2009.