Predicting Preemies

Health Watch

A simple new test for pregnant women can predict who will deliver early and who will not.

Amanda Smith, Haven’s mother said, “I tell people this is like a war zone, only this time it’s not my life on the line, It’s my little innocent child’s.”

Amanda, an Iraq and Afghanistan war Vet and NATO Medal of Honor recipient, gave birth to haven 100 days early, weighing just nine-tenths of a pound.

Amanda Smith said, “It’s about the size of a coke can.”

Haven is one of 450 thousand babies in the u-s born prematurely each year. For two-thirds of those deliveries, no one knows why.

Mira Moufarrej, Bioengineering Ph.D. Student, Stanford University said, “When people think about what tools an obstetrician has right now to look at a pregnancy, it’s ultrasound and that’s it.”

Now bioengineers at Stanford have developed a blood test that detects with 80 percent accuracy who will deliver early. Something that ultrasound cannot do.

Doctor Moufarrej said, “It tells you more about what’s going on in the process of building a baby and what might go wrong.”

The test looks at RNA molecules found in the mother’s blood.

“Looking at those seven types of RNA molecules, they’re higher in women who deliver preterm than full-term,” said Doctor Moufarrej.

The team hopes doctors will then be able to start treatments that will delay delivery. Haven spent the first 241 days of his life in the hospital, has had seven surgeries since birth, he’s on oxygen and takes 18 syringes of medication daily. But as his mom says, he’s a fighter.

Amanda Smith said, “I get to watch you stand up, smile, and give people hope.”

In low resource settings, a test to predict time to delivery has tremendous potential to impact women’s health particularly for disadvantaged women with limited access to hospitals.

Because a blood test is cheap and easy to use, it has the potential to complement ultrasound and expand access to good prenatal care.

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