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Friday, October 20, 2006

Protein imbalance can predict pregnancy disorder

Miosoti Rodriguez is truly cherishing the first moments of her baby girl’s life. Entering the world at only 2.4 pounds, Amaya was delivered three months early because of Miosoti’s battle with preeclampsia. To protect her and the baby, doctors performed an emergency c-section.

A team of researchers from the National Institutes of Health have now identified high levels of two proteins in the maternal blood that could be predictive of preeclampsia.

The study found that an imbalance of two proteins produced by the placenta is responsible for the symptoms of preeclampsia. Abnormally high levels of these proteins deprive the blood vessels of substances needed to keep the lining of blood vessels healthy.

As a result, cells lining the blood vessels begin to sicken and die, blood pressure increases and blood vessels leach protein into the tissues and urine.

“Preeclampsia that happened at 37 weeks, these hormones, these proteins began to show up in the blood at around 25-28 weeks. The finding is interesting because there was nothing that ever panned out before that could really predict the disease and the other interesting thing is if you can isolate something that was elevated in the blood prior to the disease, you might be able to give a medicine that lowered it, you may be able to block that process,” says Dr. Lois Brustman of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital.

This discovery is a homerun for the future treatment of preeclampsia, which can ultimately help save lives. The risk of preeclampsia for the fetus are essentially preterm delivery, all the difficulties with a preterm birth, that’s babies that have difficulty with cerebral palsy. They can develop lung abnormalities because they are immature when they are born, immunological abnormalities, difficulty in their cognitive abilities, blindness,” reports Dr. Brustman.

Although the responsible molecules for preeclampsia have been identified, researchers believe that attempts to develop a drug treatment would need to proceed cautiously. It’s possible that restoring normal blood pressure and blood flow to the mother’s circulatory system might deprive the fetus of blood.

In addition to high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine, swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.


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