Nav: Home

Blood sample breakthrough good news for pregnant women

July 11, 2018

A wide range of fetal genetic abnormalities could soon be detected in early pregnancy thanks to a world-first study led by University of South Australia researchers using lab-on-a-chip, non-invasive technology.

Biomedical engineers Dr Marnie Winter and Professor Benjamin Thierry from UniSA's Future Industries Institute (FII) and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology (CBNS) are part of a team of researchers who have isolated fetal cells from maternal blood using a tiny microfluidic device, allowing for improved genetic testing.

The technology breakthrough is published today (Thursday 14 June) in Advanced Materials Technologies.

Lab-on-a-chip (LOC) technology integrates laboratory functions on a chip ranging from a few millimetres to a few square centimetres. The special design of the device allows large volumes of blood to be screened, paving the way for an efficient, cheap and quick method of separating fetal cells from maternal blood cells.

"We are hopeful that this device could result in a new, non-invasive prenatal diagnostic test able to detect a wide range of genetic abnormalities in early pregnancy from a simple blood sample," Dr Winter says.

Currently, prenatal diagnostic tests involve an amniocentesis procedure or taking a sample of cells from the placenta (chorionic villus sampling), both of which carry a risk of inducing miscarriage.

"From about five weeks into the pregnancy, fetal cells originating from the placenta can be found in a mother's bloodstream. Using modern microfluidic technology, we can now isolate these extremely rare cells (about one in a million) from the mother's white blood cells and collect them for genetic analysis," she says.

The UniSA researchers, working in collaboration with Dr Majid Warkiani from the University of Technology Sydney and specialists from the Women's and Children's Hospital, SA Pathology and Repromed, adapted the device from one initially developed to isolate tumour cells from the blood of cancer patients.

"Many pregnant women would be aware of the new tests based on circulating fetal DNA that - with a simple blood test - help determine the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome.

"These tests have revolutionised prenatal care, but they can only detect a small subset of genetic conditions and are not always accurate. We hope this LOC technology will be able to reliably detect a greater range of genetic abnormalities, providing more information to families and healthcare providers," Dr Winter says.

Professor Thierry, who leads UniSA's Bioengineering group, says there is significant scope to further develop the lab-on-a-chip concept.

"We are collaborating with industry partners to translate this technology in routine clinical prenatal diagnostics and make it available in the future to screen low and medium-risk pregnancies," he says.

Professor Emily Hilder, Director of UniSA's FII, says: "This research breakthrough is testament to the cutting-edge technology being developed at the Future Industries Institute. UniSA is a leading player in LOC technology thanks to our ANFF-SA micro and nanofabrication facility at Mawson Lakes."
-end-


University of South Australia

Related Pregnancy Articles:

Paracetamol during pregnancy can inhibit masculinity
Paracetamol during pregnancy can inhibit masculinity Paracetamol during pregnancy can inhibit the development of 'male behavior' in mice.
The cost of opioid use during pregnancy
A new study published today by the scientific journal Addiction reveals that the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome -- often caused by mothers using opioids during pregnancy -- is increasing in the United States, and carries an enormous burden in terms of hospital days and costs.
New study: Pre-pregnancy BMI directly linked to excess pregnancy weight gain
It's well known that excessive weight gain during pregnancy can have a lasting negative impact on the health of a mother and her baby.
Pregnancy-specific β1-glycoproteins
Development of new strategies and novel drug design to treat trophoblastic diseases and to provide pregnancy success are of crucial importance in maintenance the female reproductive health.
Should hypothyroidism in pregnancy be treated?
When a woman becomes pregnant, many changes occur in her body.
Pre-pregnancy progesterone helps women with recurrent pregnancy loss
Women who have had two or more unexplained miscarriages can benefit from natural progesterone treatment before pregnancy, a new a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago shows.
Male pipefish pregnancy, it's complicated
In the upside-down world of the pipefish, sexual selection appears to work in reverse, with flashy females battling for males who bear the pregnancy and carry their young to term in their brood pouch.
Pregnancy leads to changes in the mother's brain
A study directed by researchers from the UAB and IMIM are the first to reveal how pregnancy causes long-lasting alterations in brain structure, probably related to improving the mother's ability to protect and interact with the child.
MRIs during pregnancy and outcomes for infants, children
In an analysis that included more than 1.4 million births, exposure to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) during the first trimester of pregnancy compared with nonexposure was not associated with increased risk of harm to the fetus or in early childhood, although gadolinium MRI at any time during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of a broad set of rheumatological, inflammatory, or skin conditions and, possibly, for stillbirth or neonatal death, according to a study appearing in the Sept.
The benefits of exercise during pregnancy
Women who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to deliver vaginally than those who do not, and show no greater risk of preterm birth.

Related Pregnancy Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#517 Life in Plastic, Not Fantastic
Our modern lives run on plastic. It's in the computers and phones we use. It's in our clothing, it wraps our food. It surrounds us every day, and when we throw it out, it's devastating for the environment. This week we air a live show we recorded at the 2019 Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C., where Bethany Brookshire sat down with three plastics researchers - Christina Simkanin, Chelsea Rochman, and Jennifer Provencher - and a live audience to discuss plastics in our oceans. Where they are, where they are going, and what they carry with them. Related links:...