Part of the show Nuclear Power
Research presented at a scientific conference in the US has suggested a way that protein analysis could be used to predict premature births. The researchers have been studying inflammatory proteins found in amniotic fluid, the liquid that surrounds a baby in the womb. Signs of inflammation are found in around half of all women who give birth prematurely. Although there are many proteins in this fluid, not all of them are actually medically meaningful. The team studied amniotic fluid samples taken from more than 120 women who had gone into hospital for a premature birth. They found that women with a particular abnormal collection of proteins were more likely to have infection and inflammation in their placenta and umbilical cord – making them more likely to give birth prematurely. This was only a small study, so the next step will be to try and set up a larger trial. But this could provide a way of working out which mums and babies are at risk of premature birth and infection, so they can be monitored and treated appropriately.