Meet NextGen Jane
Who Is NextGen Jane?
- NextGen Jane is a female reproductive health startup developing tools and diagnostics to improve health outcomes. Specifically, they have designed a kit to easily collect menstrual and cervicovaginal samples at home and mail them back to their lab for downstream sequencing and genomic analysis. NextGen Jane builds bioinformatic and data analysis pipelines to correlate specific genomic signals to clear reproductive conditions.
- NextGen Jane’s first clinical study was about discovering genomic signals in menstrual blood that can be predictive of endometriosis. Endometriosis is a disease of the uterine lining which affects about 10% of the female population. It can impact the quality of life and fertility outcomes. For their first study, NGJ compared tampons collected from people with confirmed endometriosis with a control group of individuals without endometriosis. They were able to identify a set of RNA markers that show promise as a completely novel and non-invasive way to detect the disease. The validation study (testing these markers in an independent data set) will start in January 2021.
- NextGen Jane has other on-going clinical studies to explore other health conditions such as heavy menstrual bleeding and prenatal health.
What Is This Research About?
- NextGen Jane has been exploring ways to improve on the pregnancy experience and provide earlier, better data about a baby’s health to pregnant parents.
- Currently, there are a few different approaches to understanding the health of your baby.
- At 9 to 11 weeks, there is a blood test that looks at small fragments of the baby’s DNA in your blood and tries to determine whether the baby has developmental disorders such as Trisomy 13, 18, or 21.
- This test is easy but limited in how much information it can tell you about the baby. It is limited because there isn’t enough of the baby’s DNA floating around in your blood to learn more.
- Other procedures, such as amniocentesis or chorionic villi testing, can often provide more information but are invasive and carry a small chance of miscarriage.
- NextGen Jane is trying to build new minimally invasive alternatives that can answer many more questions about the baby’s health without accessing amniotic fluid or capturing cells from the placenta.
- NextGen Jane does this by isolating cells from the baby that have naturally made their way from the cervix to the vaginal cavity. By wearing an all organic cotton tampon for just one hour, the tampon is able to capture some of the baby’s cells.
- Once the tampon is mailed back to the lab, lab techs get to work in finding and looking at the baby’s cells which are on the tampon
- If enough cells from the baby are found, NextGen Jane is able to test for many more things beyond Trisomy 13, 18, and 21
- As a single example, some babies are born with PKU (phenylketonuria) which means they can’t break down phenylalanine and need to be on a strict diet from birth to prevent the build-up of phenylalanine in the blood (which can lead to seizures, etc). PKU is a rare inherited condition but it would be helpful for parents to know and prepare for bringing home a baby and adapting to the baby’s unique metabolic needs.
Why Is This Research Important?
- By participating in this study, you can help improve the scientific community’s cumulative understanding of baby and pregnancy health.
What Will It Require of You?
- To participate in this study you will be asked to wear an all organic cotton tampon for 1 hour at different weeks in your pregnancy. You can contribute 1 to 5+ tampons on a weekly basis from week 5 to 20 of your pregnancy.
What Will You Get Out of It?
- The most important thing you will get out of this study will be building a better pregnancy experience for yourself and the future generation of parents. Because this test is still in research, we will not be able to give the results back to you. Our current focus is on making sure the test is accurate.
- You will also get a nominal $25 gift card per tampon you provide.
Is It Safe?
- Is using a tampon during pregnancy new? No! Did you know that OBGYNs sometimes use an indigo carmine (blue fluid) tampon test to detect the integrity of a placenta? We are building on tools used by the community for years. Ours is a light absorbency organic cotton tampon that is only worn for 1 hour.
- Wearing a tampon in pregnancy is safe and less intrusive than intercourse, which of course, is not restricted in pregnancy.