Pregnant women could benefit from a pioneering trial that will test whether heart disease drugs can be used to treat pre-eclampsia.
Researchers are investigating if a class of drugs - known as statins - can prevent the potentially fatal condition, which affects up to eight per cent of pregnant women in the UK.
The world's first trial on statins in pregnancy follows on from research showing that statins, which are prescribed to lower heart disease, could also help to decrease amounts of two proteins linked to inducing pre-eclampsia.
Statins act on an enzyme that suppresses the production of these proteins - soluble FLt-1 and soluble endoglin.
The trial, funded by the Medical Research Council and led by the University of Edinburgh, will involve pregnant women in the UK diagnosed with very early-onset pre-eclampsia, which occurs in women who are less than 32 weeks pregnant.
It will also involve researchers from the University of Birmingham, University College London Hospital and Queen Mary, University of London.
The study follows on from previous research that shows the enzyme involved - heme oxygenase 1 - produces carbon monoxide within cells. This could explain why female smokers, who have higher levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, have a lower risk of pre-eclampsia.
The condition, which is responsible for around four million premature births worldwide each year, causes high blood pressure, inflammation of the lining of blood vessels and can also cause kidney and liver damage. In extreme cases, when unmanaged, it can also lead to convulsions and death.
Early onset pre-eclampsia affects one in 100 expectant mothers in Britain. The condition carries greater risk than pre-eclampsia occurring later in the pregnancy because the only treatment for the condition is to deliver babies prematurely.
Professor Asif Ahmed, who is leading the study, stressed that until the results were
|Contact: Tara Womerlsey|
University of Edinburgh