New test aims to revolutionise preeclampsia detection

New test aims to revolutionise preeclampsia detection

A new rapid test for the early diagnosis of preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening complication of pregnancy, has been developed by a team of researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Researchers report the test is significantly faster and more accurate than current methods.

Preeclampsia is a condition that affects around 2–8% of all pregnancies and is characterised by high blood pressure, protein in the urine and damage to organs such as the kidney and liver in the second half of pregnancy. It can lead to serious complications, or loss of life, for both mother and baby if left untreated.

The new strip-based lateral flow assay uses innovative nanoparticle-based technology to detect the concentration of specific biomarkers present in the blood plasma of women with preeclampsia. The novel protein biomarkers, called FKBPL and CD44, were discovered by Associate Professor Lana McClements.

The development of the nanophotonic platform used in the rapid test was led by Distinguished Professor Dayong Jin, director of the UTS Institute for Biomedical Materials and Devices. UTS PhD candidate Sahar Ghorbanpour and Dr Shihui Wen performed the experiments and developed the prototype.

McClements said the new test can produce results within 15 minutes and is highly sensitive and specific. “We believe this test has the potential to revolutionise the way preeclampsia is diagnosed and managed,” she said.

The research team conducted a study using clinical samples in collaboration with the Mercy Hospital for Women in Melbourne to validate the effectiveness of the test. The study, published in Angewandte Chemie, found that the test showed significantly improved sensitivity (90.5% vs 73.7%) and specificity (100% vs 92.3%) compared to the most up-to-date method currently available.

The new test can be performed at the point of care, such as a pre-natal clinic or doctor’s office. “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.

At present, the only known cure for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby; however, premature delivery can lead to complications and hospitalisation.

“In addition to the new test, the novel biomarkers also show potential as drug and cell therapy targets of emerging treatments for preeclampsia. This offers hope not only for earlier diagnosis, but also for a future cure to this terrible disorder,” McClements said.

The research team is now working to commercialise the test in collaboration with industry partners and hopes to eventually make it widely available to healthcare providers around the world.

“This is a major advance over current methods of diagnosis, which can be unreliable and time-consuming,” McClements said. “Our test has the potential to make a real difference for both mothers and babies.”

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