Donor Supports Preterm Labor Research


NorthShore donor Kristen Hertel with Dr. Emmet Hirsch

Almost nine years ago, Kristen Hertel and her husband Muneer Satter experienced the joy of childbirth – times three – as Hertel delivered triplets born prematurely at 33 ½ weeks old. The infants spent two weeks in the Infant Special Care Unit (ISCU) at NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) Evanston Hospital.

The babies didn’t have any complications and were able to go home, but the preterm labor experience wasn’t lost on the couple. For the past eight years, Hertel and Satter have supported innovative research at NorthShore that has the potential to predict and prevent preterm births and the complications and illnesses that accompany babies born too soon.

Emmet Hirsch, MD, Director of Obstetrics and Vice Chair in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said there are 4 million births in the United States every year and an estimated 12 percent are delivered prematurely before 37 weeks.

Women at risk of preterm labor include those who have had prior preterm births, those carrying twins and triplets, and those with a shortened cervix. Dr. Hirsch and his research team are studying the major causes of preterm labor, including infection-induced and non-infectious preterm labor.

“A lot of horrible things can happen with preterm labor,” said Hertel. “We were lucky and a lot of people aren’t. This research struck me because I went through it. My husband and I are grateful to be able to play a part in supporting the research and hope it helps a lot of people.” Hertel and her husband created the Satter Foundation to support Dr. Hirsch’s research.

Dr. Hirsch said he is very grateful for the couple’s longstanding support. “We have recently uncovered novel insights that may hold the key to the genesis of non-infectious preterm labor, which is the largest cause of prematurity and its associated newborn complications,” said Dr. Hirsch.

“In the next few years we hope to achieve an understanding of the molecular and biochemical mechanisms of these labors so that research will be able to build on our findings to develop and test preventive measures and treatments,” he added.

Even more promising, he said, is that it will become possible to identify women at risk and target therapies for that patient’s specific molecular profile.
  
“I find the research to be interesting and has the potential to help so many families,” said Hertel. “My husband and I are dedicated to Dr. Hirsch as an individual and the research he is doing. We have a great deal of respect for him and Dr. Silver. If we can help them succeed for a great cause, we’re happy.” Richard  Silver, MD, is Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NorthShore.

Support from grateful patients and families has allowed Dr. Hirsch and his team to move their research forward in significant ways. “It’s very important, especially in view of diminishing public funding for research,” he said.

“With the help of the Satter Foundation, we have been able to hire a senior scientist. Findings generated in part through this generous support have allowed us to secure grants from the National Institutes of Health and collaborate with some of the leading labs across the country.”

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