Researchers examine new method to predict premature birth
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A Brock University-led international research team is looking at whether proteins in an expectant mother’s blood can identify her risk of having a premature birth.

The team, headed by Professor of Health Sciences and Biological Sciences Jens Coorssen, has discovered that the levels of certain proteins found during the first trimester can potentially act as early biomarkers of premature birth.

Prof. Coorsen says there are few biomarkers in blood that accurately predict potential pre-term births, but this approach could help identify risks even in early stages of pregnancy. Pre-term birth, which occurs before 37 weeks, is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organization.

The research team analyzed the proteins in blood serum taken from 20 women who were each around 12 weeks pregnant.

Those women subsequently experiencing a preterm birth had significantly higher or lower levels of 30 different protein species, 20 of which included specific modifications that can alter their functions or locations. They also had lower levels of complement C3, a protein that attacks invading microbes (such as bacteria or viruses) without damaging surrounding tissues.

The next step is to try to understand what roles these proteins have as possible factors in premature births.

“We were looking to see if there are different levels of specific proteins in the blood of women who go on to have a normal term delivery versus women who go on to have a pre-term delivery. That way we can identify women at risk early and cut down on emergency interventions, and the complications often associated with premature birth.”
Jens Coorssen
Professor of Health Sciences and Biological Sciences, Brock University
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