The March of Dimes announced today the 10 winners of its 2008 Prematurity Research Initiative grants. The awards were given to "scientists who are trying to stem the growing pace of preterm birth by studying the role genes and heredity play in premature births and how the rate of fetal lung development, infection and other factors may trigger labor". This year's awards include research projects to identify genetic variations associated with preterm delivery, genetic differences in African-American women who gave birth prematurely, a family history study in Scotland, and protein biomarker studies in Israel and Portland, Oregon. In the press release, the need for and goal of these grants are described with happy, eugenic [Gk, eu – gen = "wellborn"] overtones: “Most of the causes of preterm birth remain unknown. There is an urgent purpose for this research,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. “We continue to work toward a future when every baby is born healthy.”
As the parent of a couple of "preemies", I'm fairly certain that this research wouldn't have helped us; premature twins are not uncommon. From a predictive health angle, I'm not sure how such information would be used. Presumably men will not be so foolish as to screen potential spouses for a premature delivery marker … that'd be a quick way to end an engagement. As for the clinical uses, what interventions would be available to women with increased risks for premature delivery? More anxiety and more bed rest?