UCSF & Stanford Study Reveals Over-the-Counter Drug May Represent Promising Therapy to Reduce Preterm Birth

UCSF & Stanford Study Reveals Over-the-Counter Drug May Represent Promising Therapy to Reduce Preterm Birth

A Northern California-based research collaborative involving UC San Francisco and Stanford team members have discovered that lansoprazole, an over-the-counter acid reflux drug often consumed by pregnant women, may in fact represent a promising therapy to reduce preterm birth. The research findings are based on a computational drug repurposing study that additionally investigated several of the drugs in mice.

The Study

The team developed a study identifying 12 other FDA-approved drugs that are deemed safe in pregnancy. While the drugs encompass a variety of modalities, the scientists stated that they all appear to act on biological pathways that affect the immune response, which is implicated in preterm birth. These results were published Feb 13, 2020 in JCI Insight

Summary Comment

Marina Sirota, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics, a member of the Baker Computational Health Sciences Institute at UCSF and senior author of the study, commented, “Inflammation clearly plays a role in initiating labor and preterm birth.”  She continued, “Immune pathways are very significantly dysregulated in women who end up delivering preterm, and they’re also dysregulated in babies who are born early. However, we have seen our previous work that there is an interaction between the maternal and fetal immune systems and a breakdown in maternal-fetal tolerance. 

Needing more Research in Humans

The researchers identify that the drug serves as a good measure of how inflammation affects pregnancy in mice, however the feta reabsorption mouse model is not an adequate model of human preterm birth. More research is required, including studies in people before lansoprazole or any of the dozen other drugs they identified could be proven in pregnant women at risk or preterm birth. However, the computational study offers researchers leads for a condition that currently has few treatment options.

On that note, David K. Stevenson, MD, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, and study author reported that “This, basically, is a proof of concept that this drug has anti-inflammatory properties, which are not the properties of the drug was design for” continuing “this is a short way to get to new therapeutics for new diseases.”


The study was funded by the March of Dimes.

Lead Research/Investigator

Brian L. Le, PhD, UCSF 

Marina Sirota, PhD, of UCSF

Sota Iwatani, PhD Stanford

Ronald J. Wong, Stanford

David K. Stevenson, MD, Stanford University