Researchers have developed a method for estimating developmental maturity of newborns. It is based on tracking DNA methylation, a structural modification of DNA, whose patterns change as development progresses before birth.
The new method could help doctors assess developmental maturity in preterm newborns and make decisions about their care, or estimate the time since conception for a woman who does not receive prenatal care during pregnancy. As a research tool, the method could help scientists study connections between the prenatal environment and health in early childhood and adulthood.
The study, led by Alicia Smith and Karen Conneely [at Emory University,] used blood samples from more than 1,200 newborns in 15 cohorts from around the world.
The researchers also found that the difference between a newborn’s age predicted by DNA methylation and by an obstetrician may be another indicator of developmental maturity, and is correlated with birthweight, commonly used as an indicator of perinatal health.
“This association supports the hypothesis that prenatal adversity associates with changes in neonatal methylation consistent with a delayed developmental age, which may have consequences later in life,” the authors write.
The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Gestational age estimated through DNA methylation