Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia might be an autoimmune disease, according to researchers from University of Texas-Houston Medical School.
In the study conducted using a mouse model, researchers injected the mice with pre-eclampsia with certain human autoantibodies that have been found in women with the disorder.
During the analysis, they team noticed that the mice showed multiple features of the disorder with dangerously high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and placental abnormalities,
The mice were then injected with a substance that blocks the activity of autoantibodies. This prevented the development of pre-eclampsia.
The team including Dr Yang Xia, Ph.D., and Rodney E. Kellems, Ph.D., Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; and Susan M. Ramin, M.D., Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science hope that the new findings would help in improving diagnosis and treatment of pre-eclampsia.
Xia, the senior author, said that unlike antibodies that attack foreign substances and clear diseases from the body, autoantibodies attack their own cells and cause conditions in which a person's immune system attacks the body's own organs and tissues.
"This collaborative research is important because of its potential to lead to a possible cure of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women. Using the animal model we were able to prevent pre-eclampsia in pregnant mice," Nature quoted Dr Susan Ramin, study co-author as saying.
"I don't want to overstate the implications, but this is clearly a very exciting time for all of us involved in the research. We plan to focus our efforts in expanding this research to pregnant women," she added.
Preterm births have serious implications on the infant's heath. Infants are likely to die in the first month of life and those who survive face the risk of including learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss, and other chronic conditions including asthma.
The findings are published in Nature Medicine.