Study protocol to quantify the genetic architecture of sonographic cervical length and its relationship to spontaneous preterm birth

Hope M. Wolf, Roberto Romero, Jerome F. Strauss, Sonia S. Hassan, Shawn J. Latendresse, Bradley T. Webb, Adi L. Tarca, Nardhy Gomez-Lopez, Chaur Dong Hsu, Timothy P. York

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction A short cervix (cervical length <25 mm) in the midtrimester (18-24 weeks) of pregnancy is a powerful predictor of spontaneous preterm delivery. Although the biological mechanisms of cervical change during pregnancy have been the subject of extensive investigation, little is known about whether genes influence the length of the cervix, or the extent to which genetic factors contribute to premature cervical shortening. Defining the genetic architecture of cervical length is foundational to understanding the aetiology of a short cervix and its contribution to an increased risk of spontaneous preterm delivery. Methods/analysis The proposed study is designed to characterise the genetic architecture of cervical length and its genetic relationship to gestational age at delivery in a large cohort of Black/African American women, who are at an increased risk of developing a short cervix and delivering preterm. Repeated measurements of cervical length will be modelled as a longitudinal growth curve, with parameters estimating the initial length of the cervix at the beginning of pregnancy, and its rate of change over time. Genome-wide complex trait analysis methods will be used to estimate the heritability of cervical length growth parameters and their bivariate genetic correlation with gestational age at delivery. Polygenic risk profiling will assess maternal genetic risk for developing a short cervix and subsequently delivering preterm and evaluate the role of cervical length in mediating the relationship between maternal genetic variation and gestational age at delivery. Ethics/dissemination The proposed analyses will be conducted using deidentified data from participants in an IRB-approved study of longitudinal cervical length who provided blood samples and written informed consent for their use in future genetic research. These analyses are preregistered with the Center for Open Science using the AsPredicted format and the results and genomic summary statistics will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere053631
JournalBMJ open
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 17 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • fetal medicine
  • genetics
  • maternal medicine
  • obstetrics
  • perinatology
  • statistics & research methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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