Oxford Brookes University

Improving the accuracy of pre-natal screening

Pioneering research by Professor Nigel Groome at Oxford Brookes University provided diagnostic and screening tests which are used worldwide in routine clinical practice. Tens of millions of women have received these.

One of Professor Groome’s greatest research achievements was the development of methods to measure the two forms of the reproductive hormone, inhibin. This led to the first clinical tests, for measuring inhibin A and inhibin B in blood. Since 1994 inhibin A measurement has been used in prenatal screening for Down's syndrome, decreasing the need for invasive testing.

Automated inhibin A assay is used for second trimester screening, and is the standard of care in the US since 2011. The higher accuracy of screening meant fewer women required amniocentesis, an invasive procedure which has a chance of causing a miscarriage. The test for inhibin B, made in men, is in use as a marker of sperm count. Both of these tests are used in fertility studies and diagnosis of inter sex disorders.

Professor Groome’s later research led to the current clinical tests for another reproductive hormone known as AMH (anti-mullerian hormone). This is widely used in IVF clinics to measure how many eggs the women have remaining. Therefore, we can identify the women most likely to benefit from IVF and the test also helps to tailor the treatment minimising overstimulation of the ovaries. 

The current group of inhibin A, inhibin B and AMH tests used in hospitals and much of the research about understanding these molecules depended on antibodies made at Oxford Brookes University