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Research Seeks Cause of Preeclampsia

Focus is system that regulates blood pressure and fluid retention in pregnant women

THURSDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- New research is shedding some light on the development of preeclampaia, a dangerous condition that can cause miscarriage and death in pregnant women.

"Preeclampsia is a very serious condition that affects seven to 10 percent of all pregnancies in the United States," study author K. Bridget Brosnihan, a professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine's Hypertension and Vascular Research Center, said in a news release. "It can be devastating to both mother and baby, and currently there is no cure except to deliver the fetus. Our finding brings us one step closer to understanding the condition by getting a picture of what is happening at the maternal and fetal interface."

Preeclampsia causes a variety of problems throughout a woman's body, including seizures, high blood pressure and liver problems. But the causes are unknown. If not treated, the condition can produce serious, even fatal, complications for both the mother and her baby. Preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders during pregnancy are to blame for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year in the United States, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation.

The new research might one day reveal how a system that regulates blood pressure and fluid retention may become dysfunctional.

"It is very hard to control parts of this system to prevent preeclampsia without hurting the baby," Brosnihan said. "Our study provides some insight into maternal factors that may augment the disease. Hopefully, one day, we will be closer to finding a cure."

The study was published in the September issue of Endocrinology.

More information

Learn more about preeclampsia from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, Sept. 4, 2009

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