how maternal fetal blood tests could be the key to predicting pre-eclampsia
by Neoteryx Microsampling on Nov 16, 2020 8:00:00 AM
As we stand on the brink of medical breakthroughs, the power of blood analysis technology is making waves in prenatal care. One of the prime conditions under scrutiny is pre-eclampsia (PE) - a risky pregnancy complication highlighted by escalated blood pressure. But with innovations like maternal fetal blood tests, are we closer to predicting and potentially preventing this condition?
Understanding Pre-Eclampsia: The Silent Threat
PE is a multi-system progressive disorder that can occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure has previously been normal. The condition affects 5% of pregnant women worldwide and can potentially lead to death for the baby and the mother.
Severe pre-eclampsia causes the mother to develop seizures, strokes, and organ failure.
Unfortunately, the problem can only be diagnosed after the patient has developed high blood pressure, often with secondary symptoms, such as swollen legs and water retention. This means treatment is always reactive and, in most cases, the only remedy is a pre-term delivery.
Deciphering the Origins and Early Research
The cause of pre-eclampsia remains unclear; hence the need for researchers to develop better methods for diagnosing or predicting the risk of developing the condition early on, possibly even before the first trimester screening. Studies to define biomarkers for PE diagnosis and treatment have been conducted for many years.
Maternal characteristics like age, history of PE in previous pregnancies, and parity have also been recognized as possible risk factors for developing the condition. However, these factors don’t provide a holistic view of a woman’s likelihood of developing pre-eclampsia.
In studies dating back to 1979, research reports showed aspirin could potentially reduce the risk of developing pre-eclampsia. However, the clinical trials were contradictory; the drug’s benefits were small or nearly non-existent, especially when administered during the 20th week of pregnancy.
Using a Blood Test to Track RNA: A Beacon of Hope for Predicting Pre-Eclampsia
Enter the world of circulating RNA (cRNA), an invaluable player in cellular processes. Emerging studies indicate cRNA can be a game-changer in identifying those at risk of developing pre-eclampsia. How? By harnessing the power of RNA sequencing analysis, researchers can pinpoint changes in the circulating RNA from maternal blood samples during the first trimester.
In a recent groundbreaking study helmed by Dr. Fiona Kaper at biotech giant Illumina, scientists analyzed blood from pregnant women, both with early PE signs and without. Their discovery? Altered expression patterns in several samples.
But the revelation didn't stop there. Through machine algorithms, 49 genes with altered expressions were identified. Tests to verify these genes' accuracy revealed an astounding 85-89% accuracy in predicting pre-eclampsia—echoing results from prior studies.
While it's essential to note that the participant number was limited, making the findings preliminary, it's hard to ignore the potential of cRNA in pre-eclampsia's early detection. As we progress, remote blood collection tools like the Mitra® device might just revolutionize maternal-fetal health studies, providing a safe and efficient way for remote patient monitoring.
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