Right now, it's pretty much an informed guess - and that's not just inconvenient, assumptions about when a baby is due can also lead to extra medical procedures for both the mother and the baby.
"In the case of the preterm prediction, "[it's] mostly maternal genes" producing the relevant RNA, rather than the placenta-based transcripts from the due-date predictor, says Stanford University graduate student Mira Moufarrej, a lead author of the study, in a press release.
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. In a study of 38 women at risk of preterm delivery, RNA markers were also identified.
Two thirds of preterm births are spontaneous, but identifying at-risk pregnancies has proven problematic, and "efforts to identify genetic causes and risk factors have had limited success.", the researchers suggest.More news: Donald Trump calls for end to Russian expulsion from G7 grouping
Given that 1 in every 10 infants is born prematurely, that could make a huge difference!
The noninvasive procedure may help doctors prepare for hard pregnancies, which can endanger the child's life.
The research was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University, the March of Dimes Prematurity Initiative Grant at the University of Pennsylvania and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, of which Quake is co-president. The estimates of gestational age given by the model were accurate about 45 percent of the time, which is comparable to 48 percent accuracy for first-trimester ultrasound estimates.
Until now, some tests for predicting premature birth were available but they tended to work only in women at high risk, and were accurate only about 20% of the time, according to the report. That is, in addition to the genes that give information about gestational age, there's also a handful of genes that might be signaling when Mom's "ready to pull the ripcord". Current methods to estimate delivery date generally assume normal development and do not account for premature birth. Quake said the team is developing plans for a large clinical trial in the general population. "While ultrasound gives us a good idea of how far along a given pregnancy is. what it doesn't tell us is when a given woman will deliver".More news: At a fashion show, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade remembered | AP entertainment
She noted that the genes relevant for estimating gestational age were identified using healthy Caucasian Danish women with full-term pregnancies. Premature birth is also the largest cause of infant mortality in the U.S. Being able to predict preterm births can give parents the medical guidance they need as early as possible and help improve the baby's health.
"The strength of the study is showing there are molecular milestones that are achieved by the fetus and by the placenta", she said.
ISTOCK, JACOBLUNDIn a study of 31 expectant mothers, researchers were able to accurately peg their due dates roughly half the time by sequencing nine types of circulating RNA in the blood. "I bet you they're going to find that the mother's going to respond".More news: Angry Trump Tweets Targeting Trudeau Spoils G7 Harmony