Blood Test predicts pregnancy

Premature birth test being trialled

According to the press release, new blood tests could show the stage of a baby's development in the womb and predict with 75 percent to 80 percent accuracy whether a pregnancy will end in premature birth.

"Currently, the best tool that clinicians have to understand pregnancy is ultrasound", the co-author of a new study Mira Moufarrej, researcher at Stanford University, told ABC News.

The figures are impressive, though much larger and more diverse sample sizes are needed before we can be confident they demonstrate something truly powerful. "Now we need a clinical trial". 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. In most of those cases, Quake said, women spontaneously go into labor and it's not clear why.

The test measures the activity of genetic material, called RNA, coming from the foetus, placenta and mother that ends up in the blood steam. They noticed that levels of some genetic messenger molecules, called RNA, changed as the women's pregnancies progressed. Bits of "cell-free" RNA can be measured in the blood.

Parents have long yearned for a simple test that could accurately predict a mother's due date, and her risk of a premature birth.

Dr. Kelle Moley is senior vice president of the March of Dimes, which partially funded the study.

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Premature birth affected almost 10 percent of infants born in the United States in 2016. That is, in addition to the genes that give information about gestational age, there's also a handful of genes that might be signaling when Mom's "ready to pull the ripcord".

According to the study, the blood biomarkers could also estimate gestational age or the delivery date with comparable accuracy to ultrasound, at a lower cost.

To figure out how to predict preterm birth, the researchers used blood samples from 38 American women who were at risk for premature delivery because they had already had early contractions or had given birth to a preterm baby before. "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...." By studying those genes, Quake said, researchers could learn more about the causes of preterm labor - and possibly develop medications to stop it.

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".

The noninvasive procedure may help doctors prepare for hard pregnancies, which can endanger the child's life.

Moley agreed that the new findings might aid in understanding the biology of preterm labor - which could lead to new ways to prevent it. But not all at-risk women can get the treatment - it's only for those pregnant with one baby, for example - and it does not always work.

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