'New blood test may predict premature birth risk'

Desiree Burns
June 9, 2018

Now, a team of researchers led by scientists from Stanford University created an low-priced blood test that does not just accurately predict gestational age, but also predicts whether a pregnancy may end up in spontaneous preterm birth.

Stevenson, M.D., principal investigator at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University, describes the PCR-based tests, which can be carried out on a single blood sample, as effectively "eavesdropping on a conversation" among the mother, the fetus, and the placenta.

The scientists found that levels of cell-free RNA from seven genes from the mother and the placenta could predict which pregnancies would end early.

There have been several studies on preterm births in the past, and the reasons for it.

Counting weeks from one's last period is the age-old method but it depends on memory and is often imprecise. So far, the ultrasound is still the main method of predicting gestational age, but it can be rather expensive and it still can't predict spontaneous preterm births, which is the leading cause of infant death in the United States. Provisional data for 2017 from the National Center for Health Statistics show that the preterm birth rate in the USA has reached 9.93%, up from 9.86% in 2016, the third consecutive annual increase after steady declines over the previous seven years. Recently released provisional data for 2017 from the National Center for Health Statistics show that the preterm birth rate in the US has reached 9.93 percent, up from 9.86 in 2016, the third consecutive annual increase after steady declines over the previous seven years.

"If we can use a mother's blood to make healthcare more accessible and affordable to people that don't have access to ultrasounds, then hopefully that means healthier babies and healthier pregnancies".

EA E3 2018 Press Conference Live Stream
EA could also announce a new game from its indie games catalogue, similar to the announcement of A Way Out at last year's EA PLAY. That said, EA owns DICE, Respawn and a ton of other game studios - so there will be plenty of beloved franchises to fawn over.

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.

Stephen Quake, a professor of bioengineering at Stanford, is a senior author on the paper, hopes that the blood test will give women "a safer and more comfortable pregnancy, both physically and psychologically". The new test relies on identifying chemicals in the mother's bloodstream that affect the gene activity within the child.

He added that the findings affirm the existence of a "transcriptomic clock of pregnancy" that could serve as a new way to assess the gestational age of a foetus. "It tells us a lot about human development in normal pregnancy".

Using blood samples from two thirds of the women, the researchers created a model to predict how RNA levels change over the course of pregnancy. The women all had full-term pregnancies. So there is a great need for tests that can help predict early deliveries.

Next up will be larger-scale, blinded clinical trials, March of Dimes says, to validate the results. Like a message in a bottle, the genes give reliable signals about fetal growth, gestational age and prematurity risk.

Other reports by

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER