Free fetal DNA is not increased before 20 weeks in intrauterine growth restriction or pre-eclampsia

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The aim of this study was to quantify maternal plasma fetal DNA and total DNA in early pregnancy in intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) or pre-eclampsia (PET).


A nested case control study was carried out in a University Teaching Hospital. Plasma samples were obtained from 1993 women before 20 weeks of gestation. Pregnancies complicated by IUGR or PET were identified and compared to controls. DNA was extracted and real-time quantitative PCR applied for the SRY and β-actin genes. IUGR or PET groups were compared to controls using the χ2 and Wilcoxon rank sum tests.


SRY was detected in 86% of IUGR (31/36), 94% of PET (15/16) and 78% of controls (56/72). The median SRY was similar in women with IUGR (28 GE/mL) or PET (30.5 GE/mL) and controls (27.5 GE/mL). β-actin was increased in the IUGR group (3975 GE/mL) compared to controls (1835 GE/mL) (p = 0.045). Cigarette consumption was greater in the IUGR group compared to controls (p = 0.004).


Fetal DNA quantitation in maternal plasma before 20 weeks is not a useful predictor of IUGR or PET. β-actin levels were elevated before 20 weeks in women with IUGR and may be a marker of maternal susceptibility to this condition.

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