Non-invasive urine test could be used to predict premature birth, delivery of small babies

Jul 14, 2014

By Science Daily

Testing for the presence of specific molecules present in the urine of pregnant women can give an indication in early pregnancy of whether a baby will be born premature or the fetus will suffer poor growth, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Medicine. Identifying these conditions early in pregnancy could potentially help reduce complications and manage any difficulties, although more work is needed before the findings can be translated to clinical settings.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Crete analyzed the metabolites — small molecules excreted in urine — of 438 pregnant women in the Rhea cohort. They found that elevated urinary levels of the amino acid lysine were associated with spontaneous premature birth. In contrast, increased levels of a N-acetylated glycoprotein — a molecule consisting of a carbohydrate and a protein — tended to be found in women who had to be induced early. Decreased levels of a third group of molecules: acetate, formate, tyrosine and trimethylamine were associated with poor fetal development. Women with decreased levels of these urine metabolites also showed signs of an increased risk of diabetes, such as higher blood insulin.

The Rhea cohort is a large population case-control mother-child study that started in Crete in 2007. Urine samples were collected early in pregnancy at the first ultrasound appointment. Preterm birth and fetal growth restriction has been shown to increase the chance of developing metabolic and cardiovascular disorders later in life.

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