New Study Heralds Use of Blood Biomarkers to Predict Preeclampsia

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 General News
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NEW YORK, November 17 A new study that examines the valueof maternal blood biomarkers will help identify and monitor patients at riskof developing preeclampsia and is set to change the way expectant mothers arecared for in prenatal clinics around the world.

The study, conducted by scientists at the highly-respected NationalInstitute of Child and Human Development of the National Institute of Health(NICHD/NIH), set out to determine the diagnostic indices and predictivevalues of biomarkers measured in maternal blood in the first and secondtrimester of pregnancy. The goal of the study was to determine if thebiomarkers could predict the subsequent development of preeclampsia.

"This study represents a very important step forward; for the first timeever, we are presented with the possibility, for clinical use, of acombination of factors to predict early onset preeclampsia with a reasonabledegree of accuracy," says Professor Marshall Lindheimer, Professor Emeritusof Medicine and Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the University of Chicago.

Preeclampsia is the leading cause of infant death and the second leadingcause of maternal death Around the world. Conservative estimates indicatethat preeclampsia is responsible for some 76,000 maternal deaths and morethan 500,000 infant deaths every year, according to the PreeclampsiaFoundation. Early onset preeclampsia is the most dangerous form of thisdisease.

Known worldwide as 'the silent killer', preeclampsia is a disorder thatoccurs during pregnancy and after delivery. It is characterized by high bloodpressure and the presence of protein in maternal urine. However, preeclampsiacan affect other organs such as the liver, the kidney, the brain. Sometimesmothers develop seizures (eclampsia) and have intracranial haemorrhage whichis the main cause of death. In some instances, women develop blindness whenpreeclampsia is severe. They may also suffer catastrophic complications suchas liver rupture.

The findings of this new study are published in the November issue of theJournal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine.

"Left untreated, preeclampsia leads to serious - or fatal - complicationsfor both the mother and baby," says Dr Kusanovic of the Perinatology ResearchBranch of the NIH and Wayne State University/Hutzel Women's Hospital inDetroit, Michigan and lead author of the study.

"Our study found that maternal plasma concentrations (of angiogenic andantiangiogenic factors) together with a combination of other demographic,biochemical and biophysical factors are useful in assigning risk for thesubsequent development of early-onset preeclampsia," explains Dr RobertoRomero, Chief of the Perinatology Research Branch of the NIH, who is one ofthe world's leading experts on this condition and in the study ofcomplications of pregnancy.

"The establishment of an accurate means to assess the risk forpreeclampsia will enable health care practitioners to identify women whorequire more intensive monitoring to safeguard both mother and baby from thisdevastating condition," says Dr Romero.

Dr Mario Merialdi, Coordinator for Improving Maternal and PerinatalHealth at the World Health Organisation (WHO) said: "The results of the studyconducted by the international team led by Dr Romero have importantimplications for clinical practice and public health policies. Hypertensivedisorders of pregnancy are one of the major causes of maternal and fetalmortality worldwide."

"Reliable screening tests that could identify women at risk fordeveloping preeclampsia are not yet available and the findings of Kusanovicet al. provide the scientific basis for the development of such tests,"explained Dr Merialdi.

"The World Health Organization, in collaboration with the PerinatalResearch Branch of the NICHD, is presently analyzing samples collected inmore than 10,000 pregnancies in eight countries around the world to furthervalidate the results obtained by Dr Romero's scientific team."

Informa - publishers of the Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine- has made the full article available for open access on its website andinvites visitors to log onto:

SOURCE Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine

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