Bioanalysis Zone

Blood test could predict preterm labor


Date: 3 June, 2014

Team carry out analysis to find gene expression linked to preterm birth, with implications for future diagnosis and treatment of the condition.


An international research team has recently presented a blood-based test to predict the likelihood of spontaneous preterm birth (sPTB) in women undergoing threatened preterm labor (TPTL) – a condition where uterine contractions are experienced during weeks 20–37 of pregnancy. The team developed the test from blood samples of 154 women presenting with TPTL, looking for genes linked to subsequent sPTB.

The research presents a collaboration between the University of Western Australia (Perth, Western Australia), the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital (Toronto, Canada) and the Institute for Infocomm Research at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (Singapore). Study samples were obtained from women who were admitted with TPTL at the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women (Perth, Western Australia). Blood samples were obtained on admission, prior to any medical treatment, with the aim being to find genes associated with sPTB within 48 hours of admission.

A total of 48 of the 154 women progressed into ‘true labour’ within 48 hours of admission. The team analyzed blood samples to compare women in both groups. They found that total leukocyte and neutrophil counts were higher in women who experienced sPTB (35% and 41% higher, respectively). In addition, they found 469 significantly differentially expressed genes. A total of 28 of these were selected for microarray validation using qRT-PCR, allowing 20 to be successfully validated. The team then developed an optimal random forest classifier model with the top nine genes and clinical blood data. This subsequent test demonstrated 70.8% sensitivity and 75.5% specificity.

Looking to the future, the team envisages this test being used to predict sPTB in a clinical setting. In addition, the differentially expressed genes may hold information on the underlying biochemical mechanisms causing sPTB and thus have implications as therapeutic targets in the fight to prevent sPTB from occurring.

Source: Heng YJ, Pennell CE, Chua HN, Perkins JE, Lye SJ. Whole blood gene expression profile associated with spontaneous preterm birth in women with threatened preterm labor. PLoS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0096901 (2014) (Epub ahead of print).


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