Japanese researchers have developed a new test that can determine a pregnant woman's likelihood of developing gestational diabetes, which can put her and her unborn child at risk and predispose her to metabolic health disorders later in life.
The test checks levels of a biomarker in pregnant woman's blood during the first trimester to help physicians gauge her diabetes risk and intervene early, according to a report slated for publication in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
"Although it is important to quickly intervene in cases of gestational diabetes, often only women who have risk factors like a family history or obesity are screened early in pregnancy," said Atsuhiro Ichihara, M.D., of Tokyo Women's Medical University.
"Women who don't have the traditional risk factors may not be diagnosed until the second trimester. The method identified in this study offers every pregnant woman the opportunity to know her risk early on."
Gestational diabetes can develop during pregnancy, often during the second trimester, causing glucose levels in the bloodstream to be higher than normal. Untreated, it can increase the risk of jaundice, breathing, and hypoglycemia problems in the newborn. It also raises the odds of premature delivery and preeclampsia — pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help women manage the condition to head off such complications.
Ichihara and colleagues examined the blood of 716 pregnant women during the first trimester to measure their levels of a blood biomarker known scientifically as "soluble (pro)renin receptor" — s(P)RR for short. Forty-four of the women developed gestational diabetes and researchers those with elevated levels of the biomarker were more likely to be diagnosed with the condition.
In fact, women who had the highest levels were nearly three times more likely to develop gestational diabetes than those with the lowest levels.
"In addition to gestational diabetes, recent studies have found elevated s(P)RR levels are associated with the birth of larger babies and high blood pressure in late pregnancy," Ichihara said. "The evidence suggests the biomarker is important in the interaction between mother and fetus during pregnancy."
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