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Test Might Spot Women at High Risk for Pregnancy Complication
Date:9/13/2010

MONDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Women can be vulnerable to sudden, sometimes dangerous spikes in blood pressure during pregnancy, part of a condition called preeclampsia. And now scientists say they've developed a high-tech method to predict which women are most prone to preeclampsia in late pregnancy -- long before symptoms arise.

The approach relies on so-called "metabolic profiling" to track telltale metabolites found in blood plasma. The researchers say these changes could be key indicators for preeclampsia risk.

In all, 14 such metabolite targets were identified for monitoring during the early stages of pregnancy, an international team of researchers reported in the October issue of Hypertension.

While more study is needed, this panel of biomarkers can serve as an accurate guide to whether moms-to-be run a significant risk for developing the condition late in their pregnancy, the researchers said.

"Everything we know about this condition suggests women do not become sick and present with preeclampsia until late in pregnancy, but the condition originates in early pregnancy," study lead author Dr. Louise C. Kenny, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Anu Research Center, University College Cork, in Cork, Ireland, said in an American Heart Association news release. "To develop effective treatment and prevention strategies -- our ultimate goal -- we need to be able to start treatment in early pregnancy. We need to be able to tell who is at risk and who is not."

Preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition, is characterized by high blood pressure as well as high amounts of protein found in the mother's urine.

The condition "affects 5 percent of pregnancies and is one of the leading causes of maternal death worldwide. It is a serious pregnancy associated syndrome which causes the mother's blood pressure to elevate and may even cause seizures," said Dr. Jenifer Wu, an ob
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