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Progesterone may be why pregnant women are more vulnerable to certain infections
Date:2/28/2013

Bethesda, MDWomen who are pregnant or using synthetic progesterone birth control injections have a conspicuous vulnerability to certain infections including malaria, Listeria, HIV, and herpes simplex virus. A new research report appearing in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology offers strong evidence for a possible explanation: the progesterone receptor, a pregnancy hormone sensor, targets a part of the immune system responsible for protection against these and other invaders. In addition to helping explain why some women are more vulnerable to certain infections, it also sheds light on why some autoimmune diseases, notably rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, often go into remission during pregnancy.

"We hope that continued work in this area will ultimately yield better approaches to the prevention of immunological complications of pregnancy, safer and more effective forms of hormonal birth control and novel biological targets for the treatment of autoimmune diseases," said Grant C. Hughes, M.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Division of Rheumatology and Department of Immunology at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA.

To make their discovery, scientists used two groups of mice. The first group had a mutated progesterone receptor, or PR gene, which rendered the mice's bodies incapable of sensing progesterone through PR (PR knockout mice). The second group was comprised of normal mice. After various forms of immunization, antibody responses were tracked. When compared to normal mice, PR knockout mice produced much higher antibody levels, but only in response to forms of immunization requiring T cells, a cell type that normally boosts antibody production by B cells. This prompted a closer look at B and T cells from the PR knockout mice. The researcher saw that when stimulated in the test tube, knockout B cells showed normal, if not sl
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Contact: Cody Mooneyhan
cmooneyhan@faseb.org
301-634-7104
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Source:Eurekalert

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