PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] In as many as 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide, women who seem fine for months develop preeclampsia, a serious complication causing symptoms including high blood pressure, severe swelling, and problems with placental development. The untreatable and unpredictable condition, with no known cause, often requires premature delivery, and can sometimes kill the mother and the fetus.
In a new study, researchers led by a team at Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital describe two major advances: a well-defined animal model of preeclampsia and a potential lab test for diagnosing the disease in people.
"Our model is the first pregnancy-specific animal model," said Surendra Sharma, professor of pediatrics at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and a research scientist at Women & Infants, "and our predictive assay is the first one where we can go back to the first trimester and predict problems."
Sharma is a senior author on the study, published online this month in The American Journal of Pathology. In addition to pediatrics researchers, the study also involved scientists at the Lifespan Center for International Health Research, Harvard Medical School in Boston, and Linkoping University and Helsingborg Hospital in Sweden.
Building on research linking the presence of the immune system secretion Interleukin-10 (IL-10) to a successful course of pregnancy, the researchers started experimenting with mice genetically engineered to lack IL-10. They hypothesized that if they isolated blood serum from human patients with preeclampsia and gave a dose of it to the mice, the rodents would develop preeclampsia symptoms. That is exactly what happened.
Just to be sure, the researchers gave the preeclampsia serum to mice that were not pregnant. Nothing happened, confirming that the onset of preeclampsia symptoms in the engineered mice was a conse
|Contact: David Orenstein|