New blood test to be able to predict premature birth risk

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The US and Danish and scientists have created a new affordable blood test which may be able to predict around 80% accurate results on when a pregnant woman will go into labour or if she will have a premature delivery.

Until now, there were just a few tests which predict the premature birth available but they all tended to work on women which had a high risk and showed accurate only 20% accurate results, as per the study.

"We found that a handful of genes are very highly predictive of which women are at risk for preterm delivery", Dr. Mads Melbye said in a press release. Added bonus: It's a "noninvasive" method that's cheaper than an ultrasound.

Doctors typically try to conduct an ultrasound during the first trimester, but not all mothers access early pre-natal care and later scans don't provide the same amount of information. Ultrasound also requires expensive equipment and trained technicians, which are unavailable in much of the developing world.

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".

For their initial study, the researchers collected weekly blood samples from 31 healthy pregnant women, all of whom delivered at full term. Doctors now rely on ultrasound imaging or the mother's estimate of her last menstrual period to predict the gestational age of a fetus. "The model's two most important features, CGA and CGB, encoding chorionic gonadotropin α and β3 subunits of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), are known contributors to pregnancy initiation", the authors point out.

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The blood test can predict with 80% accuracy whether a woman will give birth prematurely. The same non-invasive test can be used in general to predict the date of delivery with the same reliability as ultrasound. 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.

Researchers were able to identify differences in RNA levels from seven genes between the two groups of women, accurately predicting which pregnancies would end up in preterm births up to two months prior to labor.

"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", Stevenson said.

One simple blood test, also developed by Quake's team, can tell newly pregnant women if they are carrying a child with Down syndrome.

Most of the implicated genes are from the mother, the researchers reported. They also hope to identify targets for drugs that could delay premature birth.

The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub has submitted a patent application for the new technology.

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