The molecular biomarker revolution continues and will reshape many topics at the intersections between science and law. A recent example lies in an article explaining that researchers are moving fruitfully down apath to developing a cheap, non-invasive test to predict risk of pre-term birth. How did they do that? To simplify, tesearchers took a continuing series of blood samples from women who delivered at full term, and also took a set of continuing blood samples from two groups of women expected to have early labor because of prior pregnancy events in their lives. The researchers then compare the patterns of RNA (related to DNA) in the blood from the three groups. And, voila, they found a pattern of RNA differences that was correct 80% of the time in predicting preterm deliveries and falsely predicted preterm delivery in 17%.
The numbers in the studies are fairly small, and so the study should be viewed as proof of principle. More studies will be needed to refine the analysis. Nonetheless, the point here is that the biomarker revolution is continuing, and almost certainly will prompt many future changes in the standard of care for physicians, hospitals and others. Going further and thinking about product liability and torts, imagine the implications if studies of this sort are joined with “organ on a chip” studies about the impacts for fetal development of foods consumed and the many types of “exposures to chemicals” that occur during pregnancy. In that vein, consider the possible implications of studies about the impacts when a pregnant mother takes prescription drugs, vitamins or “supplements.”