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New test could determine womens' risk of miscarriage or premature birth

Published on 02/11/17 at 09:49am

Scientists in the US have reported findings suggesting that certain molecules in the blood are strongly associated with complications during birth, according to early research carried out.

The research studied the microRNA, found in the blood cells in the lining of the uterus, to pick out any correlating molecules linked to birth problems and found 30 molecules that were associated with a variety of issues during pregnancy.

When applied to the 160 births studied, researchers were able to predict miscarriage and pre-eclampsia by 90%, as well as correctly identifying a premature birth by 89%.

All of the births studied were during the first trimester, at a stage where intervention could be performed to prevent pre-eclampsia and to manage premature births.

Pre-eclampsia affects 6% of pregnancies and causes swelling due to fluid retention, severe headaches and vision problems. It can be managed by medical intervention and the possibility of an early test would allow women to be treated quicker than by current methods of evaluating symptoms.

The research opens up the potential for a blood test in pregnant women to determine the chances of such conditions arising and then taking the next step in either preventing or managing the outcomes.  

Barbara Hepworth-Jones, Vice Chair of the Miscarriage Association, said:  “This is very welcome news. Much research is still needed before we fully understand the causes of pregnancy complications including miscarriage, and can then look for treatments. But this holds real hope for the future.”

Experts have cautioned that further studies are needed to evaluate the potential for use in clinical setting, but the early signs are promising.

The paper stated, on the successes of the early research: “Ours is the first to use microRNA in peripheral blood immune cells to successfully predict multiple placental bed related pregnancy disorders with high sensitivity and specificity. Early assessment allows use with other new first trimester screening methods, such as NIPT so comprehensive risk assessment package can be offered to the patient.”

Ben Hargreaves

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