Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy related complication which may cause high blood pressure and signs of organ damage. Even though the exact cause for pre-eclampsia is not known, reduced blood flow to the placenta may be a factor which can contribute to the development of this pregnancy-related condition.
The research study presented at the APS Annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2017, found that natural killer (NK) cells may activate and change in response to the reduced blood flow to the placenta.
‘Disrupting the altered immune cells may offer new hope for treating pre-eclampsia.’
Changes in the altered cells may offer hope from conditions like hypertension, and inflammation in the mother and the growth restriction in the fetus.
Pre-eclampsia -- a condition marked by pregnancy-related onset of hypertension and impaired function of the kidneys and other organs -- affects 5 to 8 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. The risk of pre-eclampsia is higher in certain women, including those who have had pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy, those carrying multiple fetuses or those who are obese. The condition can be life-threatening to mothers and infants and may cause complications such as maternal blood clots, bleeding, organ failure, and seizures, and fetal growth restriction, hypoxia and mortality.
University of Mississippi Medical Center researchers explored the interaction of placental ischemia and NK cells. "Our current study demonstrates that NK cells are activated and altered in response to placental ischemia," wrote Denise Cornelius, first author of the study. "We also found that upon deletion of this altered population of cells in an animal model of pre-eclampsia, hypertension, inflammation and fetal growth restriction are blunted."
"Currently, the only 'cure' for pre-eclampsia is delivery of the fetus and the placenta, at which time the hypertension and other symptoms of pre-eclampsia remit. However, early delivery of the fetus results in greater morbidity for the child in the long term," Cornelius noted. Their findings may provide a target for much-needed new therapies. Identifying additional options for treating the disease--and potentially allowing the pregnancy to continue -- could lead to better maternal and fetal outcomes.
Denise Cornelius, PhD, a researcher at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, will present "Natural Killer Cells Stimulated in Response to Placental Ischemia Mediate Hypertension, Intrauterine Growth Restriction, and Inflammation during Pregnancy" on Sunday, April 23, at 4:45 p.m. CDT in Room W196C of the McCormick Place Convention Center.