Research Press Release

Medical research: Non-invasive method for detecting placenta accreta spectrum disorders

Nature Communications

August 4, 2021

A method for the non-invasive and early detection of placenta accreta spectrum disorders (where the placenta grows too deeply into the wall of the uterus during pregnancy) is presented in Nature Communications this week. The findings may aid the early diagnosis of the disorders, which can lead to maternal deaths in childbirth.

Placenta accreta spectrum (PAS) disorders, including placenta accreta, placenta increta, placenta percreta, occur when the placenta grows too deeply into the wall of the uterus during pregnancy and then fails to detach following childbirth. This can cause severe hemorrhages, which may lead to maternal death in some instances. Current methods to detect the conditions, while effective, are not always conclusive or available in low resource settings.

Hsian-Rong Tseng, Yazhen Zhu, and colleagues optimize their previously developed NanoVelcro Chips, which contain thin, silicon nanowires coated with antibodies that detect circulating trophoblasts (cells that make up the placenta). These cells shed, as single or clustered cells, into the maternal blood circulation while the placenta is developing and an increase in their presence could indicate PAS. The authors tested the blood of 168 pregnant women who had previously been diagnosed with PAS, placenta previa (a condition where the placenta covers the cervix) or normal placentation. They found that the counts of single and clustered circulating trophoblasts were higher in the group with PAS than the other two groups. They also found that the number of single and clustered circulating trophoblasts can help to distinguish PAS from placenta previa and normal placentation, in early gestation.

The authors note that the further research is needed in larger samples but this method could, in the future, complement current techniques to improve diagnostic accuracy for placenta accreta spectrum disorders early in gestation.


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