Developing a genetic test for pregnancy risks

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University of Adelaide researchers are developing a world-first genetic test that can predict which pregnancies are at risk of complications long before symptoms arise.

Led by Associate Professor Claire Roberts, Senior Research Fellow in the University’s new Robinson Institute, the researchers have identified subtle variations in specific genes within the mother, father or baby that indicate the mother is more likely to suffer from pregnancy complications.

This advance will permit tailored, and sometimes potentially life-saving, antenatal care and constitutes a quantum leap forward in the care of pregnant women and their babies.

The research has also identified potential therapies for use in early pregnancy to improve placental development and function and reduce the risk from pregnancy complications.

Associate Professor Roberts will present her team’s findings and discuss many other pregnancy risk factors at the University’s regular Research Tuesdays free public seminar series on Tuesday 12 May.

“Our findings show that it does actually take two for successful pregnancy,” Associate Professor Roberts says. “Pregnancy success is determined by a complex interaction of maternal, paternal and environmental characteristics that together dictate how well the placenta develops and functions and how the mother adapts to pregnancy.

“Defects in how well the placenta develops and functions are implicated in common pregnancy complications ranging from miscarriage, through preeclampsia, pre-term birth and fetal growth restriction. The problem with complications is that we are unable to predict which women are at risk until symptoms develop, and then therapies can be too little, too late.”

Associate Professor Roberts is a Senior Research Fellow within the University’s Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. She is Scientific Director of the SA SCOPE study (SCreening fOr Pregnancy Endpoints) involving almost 1400 women.

Source: University of Adelaide, Australia

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