Potential new biomarkers for detecting risk of small-for-gestational-age births

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A new study has interrogated whether circulating plasma miRNAs can determine the risk of a small-for-gestational-age (SGA) birth.

SGA foetuses are those who are in less than the 10th centile for weight at birth – this carries with it a high risk of stillbirth or long-term adverse outcomes. Stillbirth is one of the main causes of mortality worldwide and around half of these occur in foetuses who are SGA.

Currently, it is very difficult to identify these pregnancies in routine clinical practice, with poorly developed screening methods that ultimately do not improve outcome. Therefore, Professor Phillip Bennett and colleagues, with support from the NIHR Imperial BRC have looked to develop a prognostic biomarker from circulating maternal plasma miRNAs.

The Imperial College research team began with seven circulating miRNAs that were shown to be predictive of SGA. They then narrowed down the search to two miRNAs that discriminated in an independent cohort between SGA and expected weight foetuses. This is really promising, as the biomarkers can be collected in a non-invasive manner and may be able to form the basis for future screening.

Though there were some acknowledged limitations to the study, this work is a really promising start to allow for the identification of women at risk of SGA early in pregnancy, and will allow for earlier clinical interventions to counteract any causes for impaired growth.

The research paper was published in EBioMedicine and can be found here.

Photo by Peter Oslanec on Unsplash

  • Professor Phil Bennett
    Professor Phil Bennett
    Theme Lead, Reproductive & Early Life Health