Blood test might predict due date, premature birth risk

Blood test might predict due date, premature birth risk

This shows that the test is more reliable than the ultrasound and is much cheaper and faster.

"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", he added. 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.

To date, doctors have no reliable way to predict if a pregnancy will result in premature birth.

And it is hard to accurately predict delivery dates, she said.

The tests measure the activity of maternal, placental and foetal genes by assessing maternal blood levels.

Prof Basky Thilaganathan, a Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists spokesman, said: "Complications from premature birth are a leading cause of infant mortality and affect 7-8% of all births in the UK".

Work by the Stanford-led team had previously shown that the progress of pregnancy could be followed by measuring cfRNA from fetal tissues in maternal blood.

The test, which detects changes in RNA circulating in a pregnant women's blood, estimated due dates within two weeks in almost half the cases, making it as accurate as the current, more expensive method, ultrasound, and more accurate than guesses based on a woman's last period.

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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.

Stanford and Danish researchers examined the blood of more than 31 women every week during their pregnancies.

The scientists used blood samples from 21 of them to build a statistical model, which identified nine cell-free RNAs produced by the placenta that predict gestational age, and validated the model using samples from the remaining 10 women.

In a related study with 38 women with elevated risk of delivering preterm, researchers found seven nucleic acids that accurately identified women who went into labor up to two months early.

"We think it's mom sending a signal that she's ready to pull the ripcord", said Mira Moufarrej, coauthor of the study, also stating that the genes that predict gestational age and premature births are different. Using combinations of particular transcripts, they were able to pick out six of eight pregnancies that ended early and misclassified one out of 26 that went full-term, among a subset of women who were known to be at high risk for prematurity.

These women each gave a blood sample during the second or third trimester of their pregnancies.

The researchers report that their blood test demonstrated higher mean accuracy than methods based on mass spectroscopic measurements of the ratio of two proteins in blood [sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 4 (IBP4)], and also exhibited higher predictive value than ultrosonographic measurements of cervical length, or fetal fFN evaluation.

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