Scientists at The Wistar Institute and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered protein markers that could provide physicians with the first reliable blood test to predict ectopic pregnancies. Their findings are published in the February 16th on-line issue of the Journal of Proteome Research. In a related study of clinical samples, published recently in the journal Fertility and Sterility, the researchers found that one of the proteins – ADAM12 – showed a nearly 97 percent correlation with ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancies occur when a woman’s fertilized egg develops outside of the uterus, most often in the Fallopian tubes.  As the embryo grows, the tube could rupture, which results in the loss of the embryo and threatens the life of the mother.  Ectopic pregnancies occur in about one in 40 to 100 pregnancies. They are the leading cause of death in the first trimester of pregnancy. Currently, diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy relies on the use of ultrasound and there is no single proven blood test.

According to David W. Speicher, PhD, professor and co-leader of Wistar’s Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program and director of the Center for Systems and Computational Biology, in the current study they describe a group of proteins that, “with further refinement, could make a simple blood test for ectopic pregnancy.” Speicher and his team collaborated with Kurt T. Barnhart, MD, MSCE, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, associate director of Penn Fertility Care and director of Clinical Research for the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology .

This current study demonstrates the power of proteomics, or the study of the sum total of proteins that the body is making at a given time, in understanding the state of health or disease in people. Proteomics provides researchers an “unbiased” approach to the discovery of biomarkers, proteins in this case, which could be used to signal the presence of a particular clinical disorder or disease such as ectopic pregnancy.

For more information, please see the Wistar news release: http://www.wistar.org/news_info/pressreleases/pr_02.17.11.htm .

 

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