A team of researchers from the University of Alberta is on the cusp of developing a simple test to accurately predict which women will develop preeclampsia - a condition that affects 4 million women a year and can result in the deaths of both mothers and their babies.
The test, which can be administered as early as 15 weeks, is possible thanks to an international study which pinpointed a "metabolic fingerprint" in women who later develop preeclampsia, a condition marked by high blood pressure and high protein levels in urine. There is currently no predictive test for preeclampsia, a leading cause of maternal death worldwide, which can strike at anywhere between 24-40 weeks gestation. And the only way to cure the condition is to deliver the baby - usually weeks or months premature.
Philip Baker, the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the U of A, is one of the Principal Investigators and the senior author of the study. He says thousands of lives could be saved.
The research, which appears in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension today, pinpointed a "metabolic fingerprint" - a combination of 14 metabolites or sugars, fats, and amino acids - that appeared in pregnant women who later developed preeclampsia. For a detection rate of 90% for this predictive test, the false-positive rate would be around 21% - 24%. The test is more accurate than pregnancy screening for Down's Syndrome.
"Developing a predictive test for preeclampsia has been called the Obstetrics' Holy Grail," says Louise Kenny, another Principal Investigator who took the lead on the research. She is an adjunct professor at the U of A and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Anu Research Center, University College Cork, in Cork, Ireland.
Researchers involved in a metabolomics initiative at the U of A are on the cusp of making the test simple, quick and inexpensive.
FACULTY OF MEDICINE & DENTISTRY, UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA