What Is Preterm Labour?
It is a sad reality that nearly 15 million babies worldwide are born preterm i.e before 37 weeks of gestation. This can cause low immunity, breathing problems, low cardiac rate, or even fetal death in certain cases. Even after survival, there are chances premature babies may acquire infections or might be prone to disabilities of any form during their childhood. Doctors usually recommend taking fetal fibronectin tests to detect preterm labor which involves collecting fluid from the cervix or vagina. The disadvantage of this test is that it might sometimes deliver a false-positive if the mom is having vaginal bleeding due to sex or any other reason.
Stephen Quake, a biotechnology scientist from Stanford, whose own daughter was born preterm, formulated a simple blood test that can predict preterm labor. Today, this revolutionary invention is used worldwide to save several babies’ lives by recommending proper medication and bed rest to pregnant mothers to make it full term.
The Science behind Predicting Preterm Labor
It is well known that every human cell carries genetic information. However, there are certain amounts of free-floating DNA and RNA in human blood that don’t belong to a particular cell. This cell-free genetic information from a pregnant mother is collected through a simple blood sample and is taken for study. Quake’s theory relies on the fact that by studying the expression of 7 free-floating RNAs, it is possible to determine preeclampsia or preterm labor. The advancement is considered one of the epic innovations of 2018 and has been commercialized today in various countries. Moreover, the cost of the blood test is only somewhere close to $10 and is easily available.
Akna Dx is Quake’s startup that deals with commercializing this easy test relating to the prediction of the birth of preemies. A procedure that was so complex earlier has been made simple and pain-free because of Quake’s invention. Also called a liquid biopsy, this test is safe compared to the other procedures involving the prediction of preterm labor. This is truly remarkable innovation in the field of fetal medicine and the test should be made available in every medical center across the globe.