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Test Might Spot Women at High Risk for Pregnancy Complication
Date:9/13/2010

stetrician-gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City. "The only known treatment is delivery. Due to the danger to the mother, some of the pregnancies may be delivered early. This premature delivery then leads to significant morbidity and mortality risks for the fetus," said Wu, who was not involved in the new research.

Although not completely understood, the problem appears to stem from a defect in placental development that occurs early in pregnancy but typically remains undetectable until the second half of gestation.

Spotting those women at highest risk for preeclampsia early in pregnancy would be useful, of course. Looking for a viable screening tool, Kenny and her colleagues focused on about 7,000 women who were participating in an international study of first-time pregnancies.

The authors first tested their panel of biomarkers by examining 60 of these women, all of whom were healthy, first-time mothers presumed to be at low risk for preeclampsia, who developed the condition later in pregnancy. The women -- mostly white New Zealanders averaging 30 years of age -- had blood screening at 15 weeks after conception. All were later found to have the 14 telltale metabolic biomarkers in the blood samples taken in early pregnancy. (These women were matched for age, ethnicity and body mass index with a control group of women who had had uncomplicated pregnancies.)

The team then tested their metabolite diagnostic method among another group of women in Australia, who were slightly younger and more ethnically diverse. Women who developed preeclampsia were also matched with a control group of 40 women with healthy pregnancies. Of the women who developed preeclampsia, 39 were found to have had the same 14 metabolites.

Wu applauded the new research. "With this knowledge, better surveillance and more interventions may help improve outcomes for the mother and baby," she said.

The study authors called the strategy, "one of the most
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