New blood test may predict premature birth risk

Familiar with the Back to Sleep campaign to eliminate sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS one of the leading causes of infant death? Called Safe to Sleep today it urges parents to put babies to sleep on their backs never on the stomach until age 1. S

Familiar with the Back to Sleep campaign to eliminate sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS one of the leading causes of infant death? Called Safe to Sleep today it urges parents to put babies to sleep on their backs never on the stomach until age 1. S

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.

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.

"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. This is much less expensive than standard ultrasound procedures.

Although further research needs to be conducted before the test can be used on patients worldwide, the experts said that it has the ability to reduce the complications and fatalities which affects almost 15 million premature births each year across the world. 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.

In the United States, over 9 percent of births are premature - before the 37th week of pregnancy.

Scientists are working on a blood test that could one day predict your due date without the need for an ultrasound or asking you to remember when you had your last menstrual period.

To see if they could pick out preterm from full-term pregnancies, the researchers scanned all the free-floating RNAs in women's blood and found 38 had levels that were distinctive for each group. The new test relies on identifying chemicals in the mother's bloodstream that affect the gene activity within the child. The results showed that cfRNA measurements during the course of a pregnancy showed differing time courses, dependent on their tissue of origin.

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

When will a pregnant woman actually deliver her baby?

Existing tests at best can provide a premature delivery to women at high risk, who have already given birth prematurely, but again their accuracy is only around 20%.

Although science has developed detailed cellular and molecular portraits of both fetal and placental development, there still aren't "molecular tests that reliably predict gestational age for individual pregnancies".

Dr. Quake, who invented the first noninvasive prenatal blood test for Down syndrome, said that the team is planning to go for a trial with a larger population to collect more data for the research.

In the near future, a new non-invasive blood test could determine whether a pregnant woman is at risk of giving birth prematurely.

"These cfRNA PCR-based tests have two advantages over alternatives: broader applicability and lower cost", they conclude.

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