Chemistry and Biochemistry

Predicting Premature Birth

Posted: Aug 15, 2011

Though more than one in 10 American babies are born prematurely, there have been few clues to predict whether a particular baby is going to arrive too early - until now.

A new BYU-U of U study suggests that more than 80 percent of pre-term births can be predicted with a blood test from a mother who is 24 weeks pregnant. BYU chemistry professor Steven W. Graves (BA '69) and the U's Sean Esplin found three new peptide biomarkers that, in combination with a few other proteins in the second trimester, can signal high risk of pre-term birth.

Their research appeared in theĀ American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, and their test has been licensed to Sera Prognostics, which plans to market a diagnostic test by 2012. Graves and Esplin hope it could eventually be a test offered to every pregnant woman, so that doctors can focus on at-risk mothers.

"If we could even prolong a pregnancy by one or two weeks, we could make a very big impact on the number of babies that survive," says Esplin.

Note: This article appeared in the Summer 2011 edition of BYU Magazine