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Unlocking the genetic mysteries behind stillbirth
Date:12/6/2012

Galveston, Texas Stillbirth is a tragedy that occurs in one of every 160 births in the United States. Compounding the sadness for many families, the standard medical test used to examine fetal chromosomes often can't pin down what caused their baby to die in utero. In most cases, the cause of the stillbirth is not immediately known. The traditional way to determine what happened is to examine the baby's chromosomes using a technique called karyotyping. This method leaves much to be desired because, in many cases, it fails to provide any result at all. Today, some 25 to 60 percent of stillbirths are still unexplained.

A new test for analyzing the chromosomes of stillborn babies, known as microarray analysis, has now proven 40 percent more effective in pinpointing potential genetic causes of death than the old karyotype testing procedure. Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, along with a team of other national leaders in maternal-fetal medicine, have published their findings in the Dec. 6 New England Journal of Medicine.

"Families have a much greater sense of closure if they understand what likely caused their baby to die," said Dr. George Saade, lead investigator of the UTMB arm of the study. "And for doctors to be able to see more genetic information about each stillborn baby can only be a good thing in terms of continuing the fight to reduce stillbirths worldwide."

Stillbirth, as defined separately from miscarriage, is when a baby dies in the womb prior to delivery at or after 20 weeks of gestation.

The study, part of the National Institutes of Health Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network's ongoing program, showed that microarray analysis genetic testing offers families strikingly more information than karyotyping about what potentially caused their baby to die before it was born. UTMB's Saade is the lead investigator for the study at UTMB, and chairman of the genetics committee for
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Contact: Molly Dannenmaier
mjdannen@utmb.edu
409-771-5105
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Source:Eurekalert

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