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Amniotic Fluid Cells RNA-Sequencing Demonstrates Diagnostic Potential in Deciphering Rare Diseases

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 05 Jan 2023
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Image: Researchers have discovered diagnostic potential of amniotic fluid cells RNA-sequencing in deciphering rare diseases (Photo courtesy of Pexels)
Image: Researchers have discovered diagnostic potential of amniotic fluid cells RNA-sequencing in deciphering rare diseases (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

Rare diseases are usually genetic in origin. The identification of genetic cause in rare diseases can provide accurate counseling for better clinical management and future pregnancy planning, which is essential to support the patients. Current technologies for prenatal diagnosis are largely DNA-based, with a large proportion (60-70%) remaining undiagnosed, leading to clinical uncertainty and parental anxiety. Recently, RNA-sequencing has been found to increase diagnostic yield by 10% to 36%, however, none of these studies focused on prenatal diagnosis. Now, researchers have discovered that applying amniotic fluid cells obtained during 16-24 weeks of pregnancy as a novel sample type for RNA-sequencing in prenatal diagnosis could help more families with tailored clinical management. It is the first proof-of-concept study to demonstrate the potential clinical utility of amniotic fluid cells RNA-sequencing.

A research team at The University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong) has demonstrated the potential clinical utility of amniotic fluid cells RNA-sequencing. A baseline for gene expression profile of amniotic fluid cells is established by performing RNA-sequencing on over 50 amniotic fluid samples. Establishment of gene expression profile is an essential step in applying RNA-sequencing to the current selected clinical diagnosis workflow. The researchers found that the number of well-expressed genes in amniotic fluid cells was comparable to other clinically accessible tissues commonly used for genetic diagnosis across different disease categories. The research team also compared RNA-sequencing data of four affected fetuses with structural congenital anomalies with the established baseline to detect potential outliers.

A bioinformatics pipeline was adapted to enhance the detection of outliers for subsequent analysis. Further in-depth curation showed that outliers can be identified in genes associated with the corresponding structural congenital anomalies in all four affected fetuses. Identifying the outliers provide more evidence at the RNA level to help diagnosis. The findings of this study have significant implications in solving undiagnosed rare diseases. It is the first time that amniotic fluid cells RNA-sequencing is reported to provide potential clinical utility in prenatal diagnosis in literature. With the identification of the genetic cause, precision medicine such as tailored clinical management and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis for families with family history is possible.

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