A research team from Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland in New Zealand has received a fellowship grant to develop a blood test to predict premature birth.

Each year, more than 15 million babies are born preterm worldwide.

Compared to babies born at term, a majority of preterm births have a higher risk of complications related to growth, learning and adult diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

Furthermore, approximately 60% of preterm births occur unexpectedly, usually in women with no previous history or warning.

To address this, the Liggins Institute team is working with the university’s medical and health sciences faculty to create a blood-based test that can be carried out mid-pregnancy.

The team discovered a molecular fingerprint in blood samples from women who were 20 weeks pregnant and went on to have preterm babies.

According to researchers, the potential biomarker was obtained from the analysis of micro-RNA (miRNA) molecules required for the regulation of gene expression.

Read the full article here and another one in the NZ Herald here