October 13, 2020 -- A blood test commonly used to detect fetal genetic abnormalities may help predict complications associated with pregnancy before symptoms develop, according to new research published in Epigenetics on October 13. Genetic material shed from the placenta into the mother's blood during the first trimester of pregnancy could potentially be used to predict possibly serious complications.
A team led by Dr. Sherin Devaskar from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), linked certain cell-free DNA signatures to adverse outcomes in pregnancy, including ischemic placental disease and gestational diabetes.
The researchers followed a diverse group of pregnant women between February 2017 and January 2019 and tested their blood periodically throughout gestation. By the study's end, 160 participants gave birth with 102 maternal and 25 cord plasma samples taken.
Devaskar and colleagues found during the first-to-early second trimester, placenta-specific DNA increased among those women who went on to develop gestational diabetes. The study team also detected several differently expressed genes and created a model with a predictive value for adverse pregnancy outcomes.
"If confirmed in larger studies, cell-free DNA blood tests may help identify issues in the placenta as an indicator of a healthy mother and fetus," said Devaskar, physician-in-chief of UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital and distinguished professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine.