Biochemists at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston say they are the first to provide pre-clinical evidence that pregnancy-induced high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia may be an autoimmune disease. Their research could provide novel diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities for this intractable disease. Findings appear online in Nature Medicine on July 27.
Scientists in the laboratory of Yang Xia, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the UT Medical School at Houston, provided evidence of the connection by inducing symptoms similar to pre-eclampsia in pregnant mice that had been administered autoantibodies isolated from women with the condition. This proof-of-principle experiment is called adoptive transfer.
Pre-eclampsia typically occurs in the last trimester of pregnancy and is characterized by a sudden increase in blood pressure, excess protein in the urine and swelling of the hands, feet and face. It affects about one in 20 pregnancies and the only cure is delivery of the baby. Pre-eclampsia contributes to 15 percent of premature babies and is associated with a high incidence of mother and infant morbidity and mortality in the United States.
"There is no effective treatment for pre-eclampsia other than delivery, in part because of the lack of complete understanding of the disease," said Susan Ramin, M.D., study co-author, the Emma Sue Hightower Professor and Chair in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the UT Medical School at Houston and a member of the medical staff of Memorial Hermann - Texas Medical Center. "This collaborative research is important because of its potential to lead to a possible cure of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women. Using the animal model we were able to prevent pre-eclampsia in pregnant mice. I don't want to overstate the implications, but this is clearly a very exciting time for all of us involved in the research. W
|Contact: Robert Cahill|
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston