However, when the mice were given supplemental 2-ME, symptoms of preeclampsia disappeared, Kalluri said.
Kalluri's team found that COMT levels were deficient, and 2-ME levels were also lower, in women diagnosed with preeclampsia.
Because 2-ME is found in the blood and urine, the researchers hope to use their finding to develop a urine test that would identify women at risk from preeclampsia, Kalluri said. "This can be designed as a urine strip test, like pregnancy tests are," he said.
In addition, giving 2-ME to women who have low levels of this protein may prevent them from developing preeclampsia, Kalluri said. "We can give back the missing amount to bring levels back to where they should be," he said.
One expert believes the results are promising, but said more work is needed before 2-ME could become either a screening test or treatment.
"This is an interesting and novel study, which gives insight into the pathophysiology of preeclampsia," said Dr. Arun Jeyabalan, an assistant professor in the division of maternal fetal medicine in the department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Magee Women's Hospital, University of Pittsburgh.
Jeyabalan said that it will be sometime before these findings can be extended to patients. Using these findings to develop a screening test is something worth looking into, she added.
"Most of this work is of animals, and I think we have to be cautious before we extend these findings to humans," Jeyabalan said. "But it is something that is definitely worth testing in the future."
For more about preeclampsia, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Raghu Kalluri, Ph.D., professor,medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Arun
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