Mother Infant Research Institute (MIRI)

House Laboratory

Michael House, MD, of MIRI Michael House, MD is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Tufts University School of Medicine and a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. House uses a bioengineering strategy to investigate cervical biomechanics, specifically cervical function, as it relates to the cause of spontaneous premature birth.

Cervical insufficiency is an important cause of preterm birth. Cervical cerclage is the traditional treatment for cervical insufficiency.  But cerclage is not effective in all patients and placement of a cerclage is associated with surgical risks.  We are studying injectable biomaterials to augment cervical tissue as an alternate treatment for cervical insufficiency. An alternate treatment to prevent preterm birth would have a significant impact on clinical obstetrics. 

Preterm birth affects 12.3% of all pregnancies in the United States. Although preterm birth is a complex disorder, abnormalities of the cervix are involved in a significant number of preterm deliveries. Cervical shortening and cervical insufficiency are prominent features of preterm birth in many pregnant women. The objective of our research is to study the biomechanical mechanisms of cervical shortening and insufficiency in pregnancy.

Our research includes: 1) studies of three-dimensional (3D) anatomic changes associated with cervical shortening and 2) investigation of biochemical and mechanical properties of cervical tissue. This research is valuable for understanding why the cervix stays closed in normal pregnancy but shortens and opens in preterm birth.

The mechanical properties of cervical tissue are derived from its extracellular matrix. The cervical extracellular matrix undergoes extensive remodeling in preparation for childbirth. The objective of this work is to use a tissue engineering strategy to develop three-dimensional (3D) engineered tissue suitable for investigating cervical remodeling.

We have shown that primary cervical cells synthesize 3D cervical-like tissue with morphology and biochemical content similar to native tissue. We hypothesize that our tissue engineering strategy can help to elucidate the molecular mechanisms responsible for remodeling of the cervix during pregnancy.

Successful accomplishment of this research relies on a collaborative multidisciplinary research team involving investigators with expertise in mechanical engineering, extracellular matrix biochemistry and maternal fetal medicine.