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Using light to examine pregnant women is a new scientific method which produced results. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have developed a prototype device that could potentially diagnose pregnancy complications. It’s monitoring the oxygen level of the placenta. The device sends near-infrared light through the pregnant person’s abdomen. The researchers devised mathematical methods to study the passage of light through the skin, abdominal wall and uterine tissue to reach the placenta and calculate its oxygen levels. Complications detected included hypertension, a short cervix and excess amniotic fluid. The healthy pregnancies in the study had 75.3% oxygen level. This level was low at the women with complications. The anterior placenta is associated with a higher rate of complications than the posterior placentae. The study was conducted by Amir Gandjbakhche, PhD, of the Section on Translational Biophotonics at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and colleagues.
Further study is needed before the device could be used routinely. NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.