‘Activin B’- A Protein Cue To Diagnose Ectopic Pregnancy

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Reproductive Biology claimed that blood levels of a particular protein could provide early diagnosis of ectopic pregnancies.

Scientists found that blood levels of a protein ‘Activin B’ is low in women who have an ectopic pregnancy, which is indicated by the lodging of the fertilized egg in sites other than the uterus. At present, finding out if a foetus is developing outside of the womb as in these pregnancies, requires ultrasounds and several blood tests.

Dr Andrew Horne, of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Reproductive Biology, said: “Diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy is incredibly complex yet detecting the condition early on can ease the emotional trauma of those affected. Early diagnosis can also prevent future fertility problems and improve the effectiveness of treatment as well as save the NHS millions of pounds. Understanding how proteins are expressed is pivotal in developing a simple blood test that could be used to detect an ectopic pregnancy.”

Currently, one in ten of these pregnancies end in the death of the mother in the developing world. Due to its potential health risk, such a pregnancy is immediately terminated upon diagnosis. In the UK, testing for an ectopic pregnancy costs the NHS around £9m per year, and also places immense strain on the mother.

In such a scenario, an early diagnostic test involving the measurement of levels of protein activin B can prove to be extremely beneficial. Welcoming this research, Helen Willkinson, Director of the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust said: “Early diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy is a key factor in improving treatment of the condition and helping to assure a woman’s future fertility, therefore we welcome any advancement that could be made in this area including the University of Edinburgh’s planned research into the possibility of a simple diagnostic test.”

Written by Snigdha Taduri for Biomed- ME