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Relaxin birth hormone
drug that makes childbirth easier

Relaxin is a protein that a woman's body produces during pregnancy and childbirth. It softens and opens the cervix, allowing the baby to emerge from the uterus.

If a baby is overdue or needs to be born early, labour might have to be started artificially (induced). Without the natural surge of relaxin just before birth, it is more painful than normal.

Scientists at the Howard Florey Institute developed a synthetic form of human relaxin to make induced childbirth easier. From 1975 to 1992 they worked out the complex structure of human relaxin and developed a way to make it in labs using genetic engineering.

The synthetic relaxin is produced as a gel to be painted onto the cervix before induction begins.

An American company, Connetics Corp, was licensed to produce relaxin. Trials using the drug for other conditions such as sclerosis were taking place in 2000.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
Howard Florey Institute : research & development

Genentech Inc (USA) : design & manufacture
Key People
Hugh Niall : research team leader

Further Reading
'Director's review'
J P Coghlan
Annual report, Howard Florey Institute, 1990, p 26.

Howard Florey Institute
Connetics Corp. licenced commercial rights from Genentech Inc

Graph showing relaxin levels in the blood during pregnancy. A huge surge of the hormone in the last few hours allows birth to proceed. Courtesy Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology and Medicine.
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