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Breakthrough in pre-eclampsia test
Date:2/12/2008

A team at the University of Leeds has discovered a way of diagnosing pre-eclampsia, a condition which affects almost one in ten pregnant women and accounts for up to 15% of all premature deliveries.

They now plan to develop a user-friendly diagnostic kit within five years which could be used in hospitals all over the world to safely and speedily test all pregnant women. The potential saving of a predictor for the NHS alone has been estimated at up to 500m a year with the reduction in medical care required for the mother and her baby.

The team has been able to distinguish between pregnant women who are healthy and those with pre-eclampsia by studying samples of their blood plasma taken at the same time as routine blood samples.

The symptoms of pre-eclampsia include high blood pressure and protein in urine and fluid retention. Left untreated, the condition can cause a range of problems such as growth restriction in babies and even foetal and maternal mortality.

Dr Julie Fisher, Reader in Biological NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) and PhD student Elizabeth Turner from the School of Chemistry conducted the research with Jimmy Walker, Professor of Obstetrics at St James's University Hospital. The research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The team used a technique which is based on the same science as MRI scans but which operates on fluids taken from the body, to identify chemicals in the blood plasma of pregnant women. The amount of these chemicals was found to depend on whether the women were healthy or whether they were suffering from pre-eclampsia.

Dr Fisher said: "The concentration of certain chemicals such as amino acids and fat in the body has been found to vary in a way which is dependent on the health of the woman. We have found that some of these chemicals increase in concentration when the woman is suffering from pre-eclampsia whilst others decrease."


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Contact: Guy Dixon
G.Dixon@leeds.ac.uk
01-133-434-031
University of Leeds
Source:Eurekalert

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