University of California, Los Angeles: Biomarker panel could help predict gestational diabetes in early pregnancy

UCLA researchers have taken a step toward identifying a possible way to detect gestational diabetes mellitus earlier in pregnancy, which could improve diagnosis and treatment for the most common disorder of pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes causes blood sugar levels to rise, creating risks for baby and mother alike. It can lead to high blood pressure, risk of future diabetes and a higher chance of cesarean section in the mother as well as excessive birth weight, premature delivery and other issues in her baby. Diagnosing the condition currently relies on conventional screening and lab work in the late second and third trimesters.

The researchers focused on extracellular vesicles, circulating “communicators” that carry and deliver microRNA genes within maternal blood. The extracellular vesicles are secreted from the placenta and play a key role in pregnancy and in complications of pregnancy, including gestational diabetes.

“As pregnancy complications continue to rise worldwide, there have been increasing efforts to study with urgency the first trimester as a window of opportunity for early identification and prediction of [gestational diabetes mellitus], and the optimal point to take action to prevent maternal disease,” said Dr. Sherin Devaskar, the study’s lead author, physician-in-chief at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital and a distinguished professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.