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New Blood Test Could Predict Pregnancy Due Date And Premature Births

Jun 08, 2018 09:05 PM EDT
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New Study Predicts Premature Risks
A new study reveals a simple blood test could predict the risk for premature births in women.
(Photo : Pixabay)

Scientists are exploring the possibility of predicting the due dates and premature birth risks in pregnant women via blood test.

A team of researchers gets one step closer to safer births for women and babies as they develop a blood test that can accurately predict certain conditions of child delivery.

"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.

Predicting Due Date, Premature Risks

In the study published in the journal Science, researchers reveal that they discovered biomarkers in women's blood that can predict due date and premature birth. Specifically, the team targeted the RNA in the mother's blood.

The researchers used blood samples from 31 women to create a model that allowed them to estimate the fetus' age based on nine free-floating RNAs, according to The Guardian.

Currently, age is predicted using ultrasound imaging, which is expensive and inaccurate beyond the first trimester. It's also similarly precise with the new blood test predicting the gestational age within two weeks 45 percent of the time compared to ultrasound's 48 percent accuracy.

A second test was created, this time using seven RNAs from a different group of women who are all at risk for premature births. Another set of women was tested using this model, which went on to accurately identified four out of five women who experienced premature births.

"With further study, we might be able to identify specific genes and gene pathways that could reveal some of the underlying causes of preterm birth, and suggest potential targets for interventions to prevent it," Stevenson adds.

The Dangers Of Premature Birth

Premature birth affected nearly 10 percent of infants born in the United States in 2016. It affects 15 million babies every year worldwide — and doctors are currently ill-equipped to predict it.

This is why the latest research findings are so groundbreaking for women and infants. However, it could take a while before the public can benefit from these developments.

"To really get to the final results, and before we actually apply a test that we put into production, we need to do a larger study," co-author Dr. Mads Melbye says, adding that it could take years before the blood test becomes available.

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