blood samples weekly throughout pregnancy. The investigators were able to identify cell-free RNA from nine genes that were predictive of a mother’s due date: A blood test that measured those RNA levels was accurate about 45 percent of the time which, the researchers noted, is comparable to first-trimester ultrasound.
Next, the researchers studied 38 American women who were at increased risk of preterm delivery, either because they delivered prematurely before, or had developed early contractions. Each woman gave a blood sample during the second or third trimester; 13 ultimately delivered prematurely.
Quake’s team found that RNA levels from seven genes could predict preterm labor with an even higher level of accuracy.
Most of the implicated genes are from the mother, the researchers reported. By studying those genes, Quake said, researchers could learn more about the causes of preterm labor and possibly develop medications to stop it.
That highlights the “big question,” Moley said: If this blood test, or any other test, becomes available, what can be done to prevent a woman from going into preterm labor?
Right now, she said, some women at risk of preterm delivery can be