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We performed a high time-resolution, longitudinal study of normal pregnancy development by measuring cell-free RNA (cfRNA) in blood from women during each week of pregnancy. Analysis of tissue-specific transcripts in these samples enabled us to follow fetal and placental development with high resolution and sensitivity, and also to detect gene-specific responses of the maternal immune system to pregnancy. We established a "clock" for normal pregnancy development and enabled a direct molecular approach to determine expected delivery dates with comparable accuracy to ultrasound, creating the basis for a portable, inexpensive fetal dating method. We also identified a related gene set that accurately discriminated women at risk for spontaneous preterm delivery up to two months in advance of labor, forming the basis of a potential screening test for risk of preterm delivery.

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