Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

'New blood test may predict premature birth risk'

'New blood test may predict premature birth risk' 'New blood test may predict premature birth risk'
Anna Jefferson | 10 June, 2018, 15:57

According to the study, the blood biomarkers could also estimate gestational age or the delivery date with comparable accuracy to ultrasound, at a lower cost.

Now, using powerful genetic techniques, Stanford scientists are closing in on that dream with a preliminary tool that requires only a pregnant woman's blood sample.

"For the most part, we can't tell who is at risk for prematurity despite all the marvels of modern medicine", he wrote in an email.

CNN reports that a paper published in the Journal of Perinatology last month also describes a test to predict prematurity.

"By measuring cell-free RNA in the circulation of the mother, we can observe changing patterns of gene activity that happen normally during pregnancy, and identify disruptions in the patterns that may signal to doctors that unhealthy circumstances like preterm labor and birth are likely to occur", Dr. David K. Stevenson of the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center in Stanford University explains in a statement. The other method, the ultrasound, can also be problematic because it gives less reliable information as a pregnancy progresses and doesn't predict spontaneous preterm birth (not to mention the equipment and trained technicians needed makes this option really expensive). The test was tried in fewer than 100 women.

"Noninvasive blood tests for fetal development predict gestational age and preterm delivery", by Thuy T.M. Ngo et al., appears in the June 8 issue of Science. "The first step in decreasing our premature births is identifying who is most at risk".

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To better predict a baby's birthday, the researchers collected weekly blood samples of 31 healthy pregnant women who had full-term pregnancies to measure the levels of cell-free RNA transcripts swimming in the women's blood-that is, the tiny bits of messenger molecule that carry the body's genetic instructions. The gestational age blood test did not do a great job of predicting which women would deliver prematurely, suggesting those particular genes "may not account for the various outlier physiological events that may lead to preterm birth", the study said.

A Stanford-led research team has developed a simple blood test for pregnant women that shows, with 75-80 percent accuracy, which pregnancies will end in premature birth.

"I've spent a lot of time over the years working to understand preterm delivery", Mads Melbye, senior author of the study and the president and CEO of the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, said in a statement.

"This gives a super-high resolution view of pregnancy and human development that no one's ever seen before". The New York Times reported that the research, which is still in preliminary stages, detects changes in RNA in a pregnant woman's blood and can estimate due dates within 2 weeks in almost half the cases.

Using a similar analysis of RNA in blood from eight women who delivered prematurely, the researchers were able to correctly classify six of their pregnancies as preterm.

However, there is still far more work to do before it could be used clinically.

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