Scientists have reported a breakthrough, towards the testing and cure for the pregnancy disorder pre-eclampsia.
The researchers from the US National Institutes of Health team found women with pre-eclampsia had high levels of two proteins several months before developing the condition. Reporting their findings they explained that the two proteins secreted by the placenta might be responsible for virtually all cases of pre-eclampsia, which is a severe complication of pregnancy that can be fatal to mother or baby.
The research, that is to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was collected after analysing the blood from 4,500 pregnant women. The experts have however cautioned that a cure and an early detection test could still take a while to be fully developed. It was explained that pre-eclampsia is usually caused by a defect in the placenta towards the end of the pregnancy that could then cause high blood pressure and kidney problems.
Statistics have shown that up to 1 in 10 pregnant women suffer from pre-eclampsia while 1 in 50 suffer from severe problems. Figures also show that in UK alone it is responsible for the deaths of around 5 women and 600 babies each year.
The scientific community, world over are still in the dark and are not fully clear as to the exact cause of the placental defects. It is known however that family history, being 40 years of age, and being pregnant for the first time could significantly increase the risk of the condition.
The researchers conducting their study on 120 women, who had developed pre-eclampsia late in pregnancy, had raised levels of the soluble form of the two proteins, namely endoglin and fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 in their bloodstreams as compared to those who did not get pre-eclampsia. They further significantly noted that the raised levels of proteins could be seen in almost 3 months before the development of the disease.
The researchers while stating that it was still unclear as to exactly how the disparity caused pre-eclampsia, did suggest that this would probably deny the blood vessels of essential nutrients, which could cause them to sicken and die.
Elias Zerhouni, the Health director of the National Institutes said, "The finding appears to be an important step in developing a cure for pre-eclampsia. It may also provide the basis for predicting whether or not a woman will develop the disorder."
Maggie Blott, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology, said, "If we had a reliable screening tests and especially a cure it could make a huge difference to many women. Pre-eclampsia often develops very quickly so knowing a woman was likely to get it would be a great help. However, I think we are still a long way from such a situation."