Non-invasive test could be used to predict premature birth and delivery of small babies

July 10, 2014

Testing for the presence of specific molecules present in the urine of pregnant women can give an indication in early pregnancy of whether a baby will be born premature or the fetus will suffer poor growth, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Medicine. Identifying these conditions early in pregnancy could potentially help reduce complications and manage any difficulties, although more work is needed before the findings can be translated to clinical settings.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Crete analyzed the metabolites - small molecules excreted in urine - of 438 in the Rhea cohort. They found that elevated urinary levels of the amino acid lysine were associated with spontaneous premature birth. In contrast, increased levels of a N-acetylated glycoprotein – a molecule consisting of a carbohydrate and a protein - tended to be found in women who had to be induced early. Decreased levels of a third group of molecules: acetate, formate, tyrosine and trimethylamine were associated with poor fetal development. Women with decreased levels of these urine metabolites also showed signs of an increased risk of diabetes, such as higher blood insulin.

The Rhea cohort is a large population case-control mother-child study that started in Crete in 2007. Urine samples were collected early in pregnancy at the first ultrasound appointment. Preterm birth and has been shown to increase the chance of developing metabolic and cardiovascular disorders later in life.

Hector Keun, lead researcher from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, says: "While we know that metabolism in the mother changes substantially during pregnancy to help supply the growing fetus with nutrients, we were surprised to see so early in pregnancy a link between metabolites that we could easily detect in a urine sample and low birthweight. Our findings imply that it could be possible to improve the identification of women at higher risk of delivering smaller babies or premature delivery using non-invasive metabolic profiling technology early in pregnancy."

Further research needs to focus on whether changes in these metabolites are induced by pregnancy or indicate an underlying risk factor. It also remains to be seen if these results can be applied to a wider population and more research is needed before any such test could be used in practice.

Hector Keun says: "Future investigation of the factors that produce the molecules associated with these pregnancy outcomes should improve our understanding of the genetic and environmental factors that influence restricted fetal growth and thus help us to reduce the likelihood of these events. We will also go on to test if exposure to these metabolites during has a lasting impact on child development after birth."

Explore further: Biomarkers provide potential for better preeclampsia detection

More information: Urinary metabolic profiles in early pregnancy are associated with preterm birth and fetal growth restriction in the Rhea mother-child cohort study Léa Maitre, Eleni Fthenou, Toby Athersuch, Muireann Coen, Mireille B Toledano, Elaine Holmes, Manolis Kogevinas, Leda Chatzi and Hector C Keun BMC Medicine 2014, 12:110. www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/12/110

Related Stories

Biomarkers provide potential for better preeclampsia detection

March 17, 2014
Identifying biomarkers could lead to earlier detection of preeclampsia, which in turn can lead to healthier mothers and children, according to a collaborative study from the Centre of Molecular Inflammation Research (CEMIR) ...

Researchers find early predictor for preeclampsia

July 8, 2014
University of Iowa researchers have discovered a biomarker that could give expecting mothers and their doctors the first simple blood test to reliably predict that a pregnant woman may develop preeclampsia, at least as early ...

Sleep-disordered breathing may affect pregnancy outcomes

July 8, 2014
(HealthDay)—Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) may be associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes, according to research published in the June issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Classes reduce pregnancy complications for stressed mothers

June 27, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Pregnant women with moderate to high levels of stress and anxiety are at higher risk for complications during pregnancy and delivery. However, Penn State researchers have developed an educational preparation ...

New test assesses gestational diabetes risk early in pregnancy

May 29, 2013
Levels of a biomarker in a pregnant woman's blood can help physicians gauge her risk of developing gestational diabetes during the first trimester, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's ...

Half of pregnant women who have hypertension and snore unknowingly have a sleep disorder

June 2, 2014
One in two hypertensive pregnant women who habitually snore may have unrecognized obstructive sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder that can reduce blood oxygen levels during the night and that has been linked to serious health ...

Recommended for you

Women exposed to smoke while in womb more likely to miscarry

July 13, 2017
Women exposed to cigarette smoke while in their mothers' wombs are more likely to experience miscarriage as adults, according to new research from the University of Aberdeen.

Lack of a hormone in pregnant mice linked to preeclampsia

June 30, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers from Singapore, the Netherlands and Turkey has isolated a hormone in pregnant mice that appears to be associated with preeclampsia—a pregnancy-related condition characterized by ...

Aspirin reduces risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women

June 28, 2017
Taking a low-dose aspirin before bed can reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, which can cause premature birth and, in extreme cases, maternal and foetal death.

The biology of uterine fluid: How it informs the fetus of mom's world

June 22, 2017
A developing fetus bathes in a mixture of cellular secretions and proteins unique to its mother's uterus. Before fertilization, the pH of uterine fluid helps create a conducive environment for sperm migration, and afterward, ...

New clues in puzzle over pre-eclampsia and cholesterol regulation

June 21, 2017
Scientists studying a mystery link between the dangerous pregnancy complication pre-eclampsia and an increased risk of heart disease in later life for both mother and child have uncovered important new clues.

Are maternal hormones different when carrying a boy or a girl?

June 15, 2017
With advances in prenatal testing it's now possible to find out whether a pregnancy will result in a male or female baby as early as eight weeks' gestation.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.