Easy-Peasy Test Finds Serious Fetal Health Issues Earlier

Scientists can detect signs of Down Syndrome, brain damage and a preterm delivery using this new urine test

Aurora Michele

Having a baby can mean thinking a lot about pee. You pee on a stick to see if you’re ovulating. You pee on a stick to check if you’re pregnant. And soon, you might be able to pee to check your baby’s health. Using urine samples collected from pregnant women, researchers have developed a test that found signs of serious medical issues in the still unborn baby, including Down syndrome, premature birth, brain damage and pre-eclampsia (a disorder that can cause a mother to have seizures).

The new research, conducted by a team of Portuguese researchers lead by Sílvia Diaz, is still in the early stages. But, if the technique bears out it could mean that checking for serious complications will be as easy as peeing in a cup—an alternative to the invasive techniques, like biopsies or umbilical cord blood tests, used today.

The researchers collected urine samples from 300 women who were in the second trimester of their pregnancies. They froze the samples and waited until the baby was born. Then, they combed through the urine with a sensitive analytical technique called nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy looking for chemicals that were related with the conditions of the babies. According to the researchers, they found chemicals that could be related to “central nervous system malformations, trisomy 21, preterm delivery, gestational diabetes, intrauterine growth restriction and preeclampsia.”

According to Chemical and Engineering News, the next step is to do bigger and better tests, looking at more mothers from a larger geographic area.

More from Smithsonian.com:

A New Way to Generate Brain Cells from Pee
Why Asparagus Makes Your Urine Smell

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