Blood Test Predicts Pregnancy Due Date

While we're still some way off a practical clinical test, early trials indicate this new method could one day replace the more expensive ultrasound as a method for gauging gestation, with the added bonus of providing warning signs of a premature birth. Provisional data for 2017 from the National Center for Health Statistics show that the preterm birth rate in the US has reached 9.93%, up from 9.86% in 2016, the third consecutive annual increase after steady declines over the previous seven years.

Despite medical advancements, doctors still do not have a very reliable method of predicting whether a pregnancy may end up in a premature birth, especially in settings where resources are scarce.

"In the case of the preterm prediction, "[it's] mostly maternal genes" producing the relevant RNA, rather than the placenta-based transcripts from the due-date predictor, says Stanford University graduate student Mira Moufarrej, a lead author of the study, in a press release.

Researchers at Stanford University say the new technique will also calculate a woman's due date and whether or not she will have a premature delivery. "To date, no test on the market can reliably predict which pregnant moms will go on to preterm labor", comments Stacey D. Stewart, president of March of Dimes.

Describing the blood test, the research team's principal investigator, David Stevenson, likened it to "eavesdropping on a conversation" between the mother, the foetus and the placenta, without disturbing the pregnancy.

"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 labour and birth are likely to occur", he said.

ISTOCK, JACOBLUNDIn a study of 31 expectant mothers, researchers were able to accurately peg their due dates roughly half the time by sequencing nine types of circulating RNA in the blood.

This is why the latest research findings are so groundbreaking for women and infants.

"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. Another set of women was tested using this model, which went on to accurately identified four out of five women who experienced premature births. "They can be applied across the globe as a complement to or substitute for ultrasound, which can be expensive and inaccurate during the second and third trimester...." Premature birth is also the largest cause of infant mortality in the U.S. Being able to predict preterm births can give parents the medical guidance they need as early as possible and help improve the baby's health.

For thousands of years, pregnant women have wondered about that and now a team of researchers may have hit upon a way to do it.

The results are preliminary and the researchers still have to validate the new tests with larger groups of pregnant women before they're ready for use, but damn is this exciting.

For the study, the team used blood samples collected during pregnancy to identify which genes gave reliable signals about gestational age and prematurity risk.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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