Unlike antibodies which attack foreign substances and clear diseases from the body, autoantibodies attack their own cells and cause conditions like lupus in which a person's immune system attacks the body's own organs and tissues, said Xia, the senior author. In the case of pre-eclampsia, autoantibodies are believed to bind and activate an angiotensin receptor that results in artery constriction.
Pre-eclampsia like symptoms were prevented when the pregnant mice were given agents designed to block the activation of the angiotensin receptor.
"The antibody injection model of pre-eclampsia described here provides strong experimental support for our working hypothesis that pre-eclampsia is an autoimmune disease in which angiotensin receptoractivating autoantibodies contribute to many features of the disease," Xia and her colleagues wrote in the paper.
If the research is confirmed in human trials, Xia believes this information could be used for both the earlier diagnosis and treatment of pre-eclampsia. By measuring autoantibody levels, clinicians could detect the disease weeks before symptoms appear. In addition, new drugs could be developed to inhibit the activation of the angiotensin receptor.
In the meantime, Xia said further research is needed to determine what triggers the production of the autoantibodies.
"Pre-eclampsia is one of the leading causes of prematurity and Small For Gestational Age (SGA) infants. Many of these babies are born with underdeveloped lungs or poor lung clearance of fluid, necessitating neonatal intensive care admission and various respiratory therapies to support their breathing. We continue to struggle to find a proven prevention or treatment solution for these problems," said Nehal A. Parikh, D.O., an assistant professor of neonatal-perinatal medicine at the UT Medical School at Houston and a member of the medical
|Contact: Robert Cahill|
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston