A new RNA blood test may be able to detect women who are at risk for preterm birth.
The New York Times has reported that there is a new test that scientists are developing, which may be able to help pregnant women who are in greater danger of premature labor.
Stephen Quake of Stanford University has been conducting preliminary research on small groups of women, hoping to perfect a method of detection that is both low cost and precise. Quake is using his expertise in the field of genetic blood testing to pioneer this study.
The test utilizes RNA, also known as ribonucleic acid, which is one of the three major biological molecules that make up all forms of life. Quake's test aims to detect changes in the RNA of pregnant women, and use that data to predict a due date.
The research has compared RNA from eight women who had had premature deliveries to those of other pregnant women to identify makers that would predict the early onset of birth.
Save the Children's statistics state that the United States tops the list for having babies that die the same day that they are born, compared against other countries in the industrialized world.
Babies who are born preterm is the number one cause of death and lifelong disabilities in the US. A baby is considered premature if they are born before 37 weeks gestation.
There are many factors that can add to the risk of preterm labor, including tobacco use, obesity, age of the mother, fertility treatments, and lack of prenatal care.
African-American women's preterm birth rate is nearly 50% higher than that of their Caucasian counterparts. This may be due in part to genetic factors that come into play as a result of ethnicity, but also because African-American women are disproportionately more likely to live in poverty than Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian women. In fact, research cites that over a quarter of black women in the United States are considered to be "poor". And unfortunately, lower income often means lack of access to healthcare.
Hopefully breakthroughs in technology, coupled with changes to the health care system, can lead America to an era where affordable healthcare and screening will be available to every person, regardless of their ethnicity or social status. And it appears that this RNA test is hoping to accomplish just that.