A study published in the Journal of Science says blood tests can accurately identify if pregnant women will deliver babies up to two months prematurely.
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.
Biomarkers are a naturally occurring molecule, gene, or characteristic by which a particular pathological or physiological process, disease, etc. can be identified.
David Stevenson, the principal investigator of the March of Dimes prematurity research centre at Stanford University, described the non-invasive blood test approach as a way of ”eavesdropping on a conversation” between the mother, the foetus and the placenta, without disturbing the pregnancy.
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.
”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,” he said.
”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.
The researcher noted that both tests will require validation in larger, blinded clinical trials.
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