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A new blood test identifies a high-risk pregnancy due to complications in the placenta thanks to nanotechnology

Identifying a risky pregnancy early can mean saving the life of the baby or even the mother, since in these cases gynecologists follow the evolution of the pregnancy more closely and carry out more tests to act if necessary.

Hence, researchers focus their studies on developing new methods of prenatal diagnosis, increasingly accurate and in the first week of gestation. The latest advance comes from the hands of researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) and Cedars-Sinai Hospital (United States), who have developed a nanotechnological device capable of detecting a potentially fatal complication through a simple blood test during pregnancy : Placenta accreta spectrum disorder.

It can be done in the first trimester of pregnancy

Placenta accreta spectrum disorder occurs when the placenta grows too deep into the uterine wall and does not detach from the uterus after delivery. Therefore, it can cause significant blood loss during pregnancy and childbirth, which requires blood transfusions and intensive care, which can lead to serious diseases and infections and can even be fatal for the mother.

It occurs in less than 0.5% of pregnancies and is currently diagnosed by ultrasound in combination with an evaluation of the mother’s history of pregnancy. For example, a previous cesarean delivery and a history of placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta covering the birth canal, may indicate an increased risk. But these factors alone are not usually reliable enough to detect other cases than the most serious.

The new research, published in the journal ‘Nature Communications’, explains this method, which includes a new blood test that can be performed as early as the first trimester of pregnancy , allowing for early referral to doctors specializing in high-risk pregnancies.

Dr. Yalda Afshar, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, and co-first author of the study, explains the importance of “early and accurate detection of this very high-risk obstetric problem can greatly improve measure the results for both mother and baby “ :

“Given the unreliability of current placenta accreta screening methods, we saw an urgent need to create an easy-to-apply screening that could be carried out early in pregnancy in all healthcare settings, regardless of the resources available to them. patients. “

A nanotech device is the key

The new method uses a technology called NanoVelcro Chip, developed over the past 15 years by Drs. Yazhen Zhu and Hsian-Rong Tseng, UCLA University Medical and Molecular Pharmacology Professors. According to the researchers, this chip, originally created to detect tumor cells in people with cancer , is a device the size of a postage stamp with nanowires that are 1,000 times thinner than a human hair and are coated with antibodies that can recognize specific cells .

For this study, they adapted the chip so that it could detect placental cells in the mother’s blood that are linked to placenta accreta spectrum disorder. These cells, called trophoblasts , appear in the first days of pregnancy.

According to experts, when a blood sample is analyzed with the chip, the trophoblasts (a group of cells that form the outer layer of the blastocyst, which provides nutrients to the embryo and develops as an important part of the placenta, since the third month of gestation this will be called the placenta), adhere to it and can be detected under a microscope. Therefore, an abnormally high trophoblast count or a group of trophoblasts in the blood indicates a high risk of placenta accreta disorder. In fact, Dr. Yazhen Zhu, one of the study’s authors, explains that “seeing a group of trophoblasts for the first time was like looking at shiny pearls.”

“When we looked at the cells under the microscope, it seemed to us that we had a direct view of the placenta during pregnancy.”

Dr. Margareta Pisarska, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Hospital and a co-author of the study, said the research team’s multidisciplinary approach was the key to the study’s success.

“The effectiveness of this test and the strength of our work are due to the bringing together of experts from many disciplines, including obstetrics, nanotechnology, pathology, engineering, chemistry, microfluidics and biostatistics.” “The diversity of our team allowed us to create an innovative solution to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes.”

Now these researchers are working to find new ways to refine the test to improve its accuracy and reliability.

Via | University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)

Photos | iStock

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