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Discovery of pre-eclampsia genes could lead to treatment breakthrough

Faulty genes could be the cause of pre-eclampsia in pregnancy

Posted: 23 March 2011
by lorna Bremner
pre-eclampsia pregnancy
Pre-eclampsia is thought to be responsible for 15% of premature births

Faulty genes that could put women at risk of developing pre-eclampsia have been discovered by scientists, reports the BBC.  Three genes may be involved in the condition that sees 1,000 unborn babies die in the UK every year.

The genes were discovered by US researchers who studied 60 otherwise healthy mums-to-be, all hospitalised for pre-eclampsia. The study also involved 250 pregnant women who already suffered from immune disorders, such as lupus. Of these 250 women, 40 had developed pre-eclampsia in their current or previous pregnancy.

In the women who had developed pre-eclampsia, scientists looked at three genes that all related to the body’s immune response. They found that the majority of the pre-eclampsia sufferers had mutations within one or more of these three genes.

Pre-elcampsia is a potentially dangerous condition that usually develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. It causes high blood pressure and can result in the breakdown of the placenta, reducing or preventing nutrients reaching the baby.

The researchers believe a drug already used to treat immune disorders may now be adapted for use in pre-eclampsia pregnancies.

“We’re going to need to confirm these links in a larger study,” said Dr John Atkinson, from Washington University School of Medicine. “But if they are validated it may be possible to develop better ways to identify and treat women at risk.”

Pregnant? Make sure you know the signs of pre-eclampsia and what to do if you recognise them.


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