Researchers report the most complete list so far of proteins present in the human amniotic fluid, the liquid that surrounds a fetus during pregnancy. The new information may be used to develop new or improved markers of pregnancy-associated pathological conditions, such as preterm delivery, intra-amniotic infection, and chromosomal anomalies in the fetus. The amniotic fluid is initially formed from maternal plasma that later crosses fetal membranes from 10 to 20 weeks of gestation. By looking at the composition of the amniotic fluid in this gestational stage, scientists can provide valuable information about the health of the fetus and may indicate potential pathological conditions. Although many amniotic fluid proteins are known and are currently used to detect potential fetal anomalies, little is known about the functions of these proteins and how they interact with one another.
Eleftherios P. Diamandis and colleagues showed that the amniotic fluid contains at least 850 proteins, many of which have not been discovered before and that could be used as new markers for genetic defects or pathological conditions in the fetus. Current markers used for that purpose either do not detect defects in all affected fetuses – leaving some mothers with a negative diagnosis while their baby actually has a defect – or incorrectly diagnose some fetuses as having a defect when no such defect exists. Also, although they reveal defects, these markers cannot pinpoint the origin of the defect. The newly identified proteins could help design markers that are easier to detect and provide more details about potential defects.
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