Novel biomarkers enable new rapid test for preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is a potentially deadly condition that affects 4% to 8% of pregnant women worldwide, but the condition can be difficult to diagnose. Now, a team of Australian researchers has developed a quick and accurate new test using nanoparticle-based technology and novel biomarkers.
Usually beginning after 20 weeks gestation, preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and, later in the pregnancy, damage to organs such as the kidneys and liver.
If untreated, the condition can lead to serious, even fatal, complications for both mother and baby. Maternal and fetal mortality can be significantly reduced by early detection and treatment of preeclampsia. However, accurately detecting the condition can be tricky as women can present with varying symptoms and clinical signs, so diagnosis can often be delayed or missed.
Current methods of diagnosing preeclampsia involve regularly measuring blood pressure and checking for protein in the urine. A fetal ultrasound will likely be recommended to monitor the baby’s growth. For women between 20 and 35 weeks gestation, a blood test can detect low levels of placental growth factor (PlGF), but it’s indicative only and may require further tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have now developed a new test for preeclampsia that is rapid and accurate.
They developed a strip-based lateral flow assay that uses nanoparticle-based technology to detect the concentration of specific biomarkers in the blood plasma of women with preeclampsia. A lateral flow assay is a device that detects the presence of a target substance – in this case, it tests for two novel protein biomarkers called FKBPL and CD44, which were recently identified by Lana McClements, corresponding author of the study, as promising diagnostic biomarkers of early-onset preeclampsia.
One of the key ingredients of the new test is lanthanide-doped upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs), which, when combined with FKBPL and CD44, accurately quantify the plasma concentration of these biomarkers.
The researchers validated the test’s effectiveness using clinical samples. They found that, compared to the most up-to-date method of diagnosing preeclampsia, their test showed significantly improved sensitivity (90.5% vs. 73.7%) and specificity (100% vs. 92.3%). Moreover, the test results came back within 15 minutes.
“We believe this test has the potential to revolutionize the way preeclampsia is diagnosed and managed,” said McClements.
The strip-based detection method, similar to how an at-home pregnancy test works, is low-cost and can be used in pre-natal clinics or doctor’s offices without the need for bulky lab equipment. The speed at which it provides results is an obvious advantage, the researchers say.
“This essentially gives clinicians the ability to make immediate and life-saving informed decisions, and not wait 24 hours for the results to come back,” McClements said.
The researchers say that in addition to improving testing for preeclampsia, the newly discovered biomarkers could lead to the development of new therapies.
“In addition to the new test, the novel biomarkers also show potential as drug and cell therapy targets of emerging treatments for preeclampsia,” McClements said. “This offers hope not only for earlier diagnosis, but also for a future cure to this terrible disorder.”
The research team is now working to commercialize the test and hopes to make it available to healthcare providers worldwide.
“This is a major advance over current methods of diagnosis, which can be unreliable and time-consuming,” said McClements. “Our test has the potential to make a real difference for both mothers and babies.”
The study was published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
Source: University of Technology Sydney
Please keep comments to less than 150 words. No abusive material or spam will be published.