In the future, blood tests could predict your due date

Maricruz Casares
Junio 10, 2018

The study was led by Stephen Quake of Stanford University, who said that the test could provide a low-priced method of estimating a fetus' gestational age.

But what if there were a cheap way to predict a baby's birthday accurately, including the risk of a premature baby?

"However, the number of cases in the study were small and the accuracy of prediction was poor for premature birth".

"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 labor and birth are likely to occur", Dr. David K. Stevenson of the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center in Stanford University explains in a statement. So far, the ultrasound is still the main method of predicting gestational age, but it can be rather expensive and it still can't predict spontaneous preterm births, which is the leading cause of infant death in the United States.

Inaccurate estimates of due dates can sometimes lead to unnecessary induction of labor and Cesarean sections, with pain and increased medical expenses. The test was tried in fewer than 100 women.

"Our test was able to predict 80.3% of women who went on to have any preterm birth, at 15 to 20 weeks gestation", Laura Jelliffe-Pawlowski, an associate professor and director of Precision Health and Discovery at the University of California, San Francisco's Preterm Birth Initiative and coauthor of the study, tells CNN. "The first step in decreasing our premature births is identifying who is most at risk".

For the study, the team used blood samples collected during pregnancy to identify which genes gave reliable signals about gestational age and prematurity risk.

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To link RNA to a fetus's due date, the team studied 31 pregnant Danish women.

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.

"I've spent a lot of time over the years working to understand preterm delivery", Mads Melbye, senior author of the study and the president and CEO of the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, said in a statement.

"This gives a super-high resolution view of pregnancy and human development that no one's ever seen before", says lead author Thuy Ngo from Stanford University.

In a related study of another 38 women, all at elevated risk of delivering preterm, the researchers identified seven nucleic acids that accurately classified women who delivered preterm up to two months in advance of labour.

The free-floating genetic material has proven to be a powerful tool for detecting other problems, as well.

The results are preliminary and the researchers still have to validate the new tests with larger groups of pregnant women before they're ready for use, but damn is this exciting. Developed in 2008, the test is now used by more than 3 million pregnant women a year.

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