This new blood test can predict due date and premature birth

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Analysing blood from eight mothers who gave birth prematurely, the test was correct for six of them, misclassifying just one of the 26 full term deliveries.

He added that the findings affirm the existence of a "transcriptomic clock of pregnancy" that could serve as a new way to assess the gestational age of a foetus.

Researchers have developed an cheap blood test they say can predict a pregnant women's due date and potentially identify women at risk for of preterm birth; Virginia's governor has expanded Medicaid in the state; and the American Medical Association is expected to take a stance on over-the-counter birth control this weekend.

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.

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".

"We found that some genes are very good predictors of what women are at risk of giving birth prematurely".

But, with a more precise delivery date, doctors could prepare earlier pregnancies that are at risk.

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".

Stevenson, M.D., principal investigator at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University, describes the PCR-based tests, which can be carried out on a single blood sample, as effectively "eavesdropping on a conversation" among the mother, the fetus, and the placenta.

"RNA is what's happening in the cells at any given moment", said Dr. Quake, co-president of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, which funded the study along with others. Doctors now rely on ultrasound imaging or the mother's estimate of her last menstrual period to predict the gestational age of a fetus.

The researchers then applied the test to two groups of women at risk for preterm birth - patients at the University of Pennsylvania who had premature contractions and patients at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, who had delivered prematurely in a previous pregnancy.

In another cohort of healthy pregnant women, the team found that measurement of nine cfRNA transcripts in maternal blood could predict gestational age with comparable accuracy to ultrasound.

Dr. Diana Bianchi, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and an expert in prenatal genetic testing, said a trial should involve as much diversity as possible.

To link RNA to a fetus's due date, the team studied 31 pregnant Danish women. Existing tests at best can provide a premature delivery to women at high risk, who have already given birth prematurely, but again their accuracy is only around 20%. Specifically, the team targeted the RNA in the mother's blood.

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