Current methods for pregnancy diagnostics are based on immunodetection of pregnancy-specific proteins and in a forensic context suffer from sensitivity and specificity issues. Here, we applied reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) technology to 11 genes previously reported with placental mRNA circulating in maternal blood. We found two genes, hPL and βhCG, with pregnancy-specific expression in whole blood samples. RT-PCR detection of hPL was positive in all samples tested throughout the pregnancy, whereas βhCG was detectable until half of the second trimester but not at later gestation ages. For hPL, in vitro stability of the transcript was demonstrated until 2 months of age, and the hPL-specific RT-PCR assay applied was highly sensitive with reliable detection from down to 0.25 cm2 dried bloodstain. We therefore suggest hPL-specific RT-PCR as a new molecular tool for forensic pregnancy diagnostics from dried blood stains. Moreover, our results indicate that the time-wise reverse expression of hPL and βhCG during pregnancy may allow an RT-PCR-based estimation of the gestational age from blood stains, adding to the value of forensic pregnancy diagnosis for crime scene investigations.

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International Journal of Legal Medicine (Print)
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Gauvin, J., Zubakov, D., van Rhee-Binkhorst, J., Kloosterman, A., Steegers, E., & Kayser, M. (2010). Forensic pregnancy diagnostics with placental mRNA markers. International Journal of Legal Medicine (Print), 124(1), 13–17. doi:10.1007/s00414-008-0315-6