Blockade of IL-6R prevents preterm birth and adverse neonatal outcomes

Marcelo Farias-Jofre, Roberto Romero, Jose Galaz, Yi Xu, Derek Miller, Valeria Garcia-Flores, Marcia Arenas-Hernandez, Andrew D. Winters, Bruce A. Berkowitz, Robert H. Podolsky, Yimin Shen, Tomi Kanninen, Bogdan Panaitescu, Catherine R. Glazier, Roger Pique-Regi, Kevin R. Theis, Nardhy Gomez-Lopez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Preterm birth preceded by spontaneous preterm labour often occurs in the clinical setting of sterile intra-amniotic inflammation (SIAI), a condition that currently lacks treatment. Methods: Proteomic and scRNA-seq human data were analysed to evaluate the role of IL-6 and IL-1α in SIAI. A C57BL/6 murine model of SIAI-induced preterm birth was developed by the ultrasound-guided intra-amniotic injection of IL-1α. The blockade of IL-6R by using an aIL-6R was tested as prenatal treatment for preterm birth and adverse neonatal outcomes. QUEST-MRI evaluated brain oxidative stress in utero. Targeted transcriptomic profiling assessed maternal, foetal, and neonatal inflammation. Neonatal biometrics and neurodevelopment were tested. The neonatal gut immune-microbiome was evaluated using metagenomic sequencing and immunophenotyping. Findings: IL-6 plays a critical role in the human intra-amniotic inflammatory response, which is associated with elevated concentrations of the alarmin IL-1α. Intra-amniotic injection of IL-1α resembles SIAI, inducing preterm birth (7% vs. 50%, p = 0.03, Fisher's exact test) and neonatal mortality (18% vs. 56%, p = 0.02, Mann–Whitney U-test). QUEST-MRI revealed no foetal brain oxidative stress upon in utero IL-1α exposure (p > 0.05, mixed linear model). Prenatal treatment with aIL-6R abrogated IL-1α-induced preterm birth (50% vs. 7%, p = 0.03, Fisher's exact test) by dampening inflammatory processes associated with the common pathway of labour. Importantly, aIL-6R reduces neonatal mortality (56% vs. 22%, p = 0.03, Mann–Whitney U-test) by crossing from the mother to the amniotic cavity, dampening foetal organ inflammation and improving growth. Beneficial effects of prenatal IL-6R blockade carried over to neonatal life, improving survival, growth, neurodevelopment, and gut immune homeostasis. Interpretation: IL-6R blockade can serve as a strategy to treat SIAI, preventing preterm birth and adverse neonatal outcomes. Funding: NICHD/NIH/DHHS, Contract HHSN275201300006C. WSU Perinatal Initiative in Maternal, Perinatal and Child Health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104865
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Alarmin
  • IL-1α
  • Microbiome
  • Pregnancy
  • Prematurity
  • Sterile intra-amniotic inflammation


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