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Inside the Lab Omics, Technology and innovation

Pregnancy Risk Predictor

“Pregnant”, “Not Pregnant”: the two simple answers that you would expect all currently available pregnancy tests to provide. Picture this though… a home-based test that could predict likelihood of miscarriage, aneuploidy or even twins. Would putting that kind of information into the hands of consumers be a good thing? And how likely is it that such a test will be developed?

UK-based MAP Diagnostics believe in the value of such a test. In fact, their entire ethos is based on the empowerment of parents by providing rapid, reliable results, early in gestation to allow them to make informed decisions. To that end, it is using protein profiling to develop a test which provides early indications of pregnancy-related problems. Employing a technique more commonly applied to assisted reproduction, the company’s urine test will use mass spectrometry to identify protein biomarkers released by embryos, which will then be analyzed using an algorithm developed using a database of pregnant women, to spot patterns linked to various outcomes, such as Down’s syndrome (1). Using this approach, the company hopes to develop tests for a range of pregnancy-related conditions including gestational diabetes and ectopic pregnancy, and to predict a number of complications including intrauterine growth restriction and miscarriage.

The approach will need a lot of further validation, but initial results for trisomy prediction look good – using an archive of 101 maternal urine samples, the test had 100 percent sensitivity and specificity at 12–14 weeks gestation. Although cfDNA screening is also being explored for this purpose, the creators of the urine test believe that, as a less invasive alternative which will reportedly be a fraction of the cost, protein profiling could offer a compelling alternative – and they plan for more tests to follow.

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  1. RK Iles, et al., “Direct and rapid mass spectral fingerprinting of maternal urine for the detection of Down syndrome pregnancy”, Clin Proteomics, 12, eCollection (2015). PMID: 25878568.
About the Author
Roisin McGuigan

I have an extensive academic background in the life sciences, having studied forensic biology and human medical genetics in my time at Strathclyde and Glasgow Universities. My research, data presentation and bioinformatics skills plus my ‘wet lab’ experience have been a superb grounding for my role as an Associate Editor at Texere Publishing. The job allows me to utilize my hard-learned academic skills and experience in my current position within an exciting and contemporary publishing company.

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