- Preeclampsia is a serious complication during pregnancy
characterized by high blood pressure that endangers the health of both
mother and baby.
- Current study is the first to show that certain features in the
baby's DNA may actually increase the risk of preeclampsia in the mother.
in fetal DNA could influence the occurrence of preeclampsia in the mother in a
first of its kind international study published in Nature
. The work was conducted by genetics experts from the UK, the Nordic countries and Central Asia.
DNA and Preeclampsia - Unravelling the Mystery
‘DNA changes in fetus that cause increased release of a protein called sFlt-1 from the placenta is associated with risk of preeclampsia in the mother.’
It has long been known that a woman has a
higher risk of suffering from preeclampsia during her pregnancy if her mother
or sister had a similar history.
However, many recent studies have shown that
preeclampsia also runs in the families of men who father pregnancies associated
with preeclampsia. To put it in other words, the daughter-in-law of a woman who
had preeclampsia may also be at higher risk of preeclampsia
Additionally, faulty placenta has been
known to be associated with many preeclamptic pregnancies. And interestingly,
it is the baby's genes that form the placenta.
by the above mentioned facts that paternal
genes that increase the risk of preeclampsia in the pregnant woman, can only
come from the fetus,
and the fact that fetal
genes contribute to the faulty placenta
, the research team embarked on the
current study to see if they could identify a significant association between
fetal genes and preeclampsia.
Fetal DNA and Preeclampsia - Details of The Study
included teams from the UK, Norway, Iceland, Finland,
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The project involved collecting DNA samples
contributed from Iceland, Norway and Finland as well as from over 20
universities and maternity units in the UK. The work was coordinated by Dr
Linda Morgan, from the University of Nottingham's School of Life Sciences.
- The study teams assessed the genetic make-up of 4,380 babies born from
preeclamptic pregnancies and compared their DNA with over 300,000 healthy
- Laboratory testing performed at the
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (UK) and deCODE Genetics (Iceland)
identified the location in the baby's DNA associated with increased risk
of preeclampsia, which was confirmed by other InterPregGen members.
differences were found in the DNA region of babies
of preeclampsia pregnancies near
the gene which encoded production and release of the sFlt-1 protein by
the placenta into the maternal blood.
levels sFlt-1 released into the mother's
bloodstream damage her blood vessels, resulting in high blood pressure,
damage to her kidney function, liver and brain -- all features of
- A baby that carried the DNA variants
associated with increased sFlt-1 protein production increased maternal
risk of preeclampsia.
Dr Morgan, "We found there were indeed some features in a baby's DNA that
can increase the risk of pre-eclampsia."
However, the DNA changes seen in
eclampsia are fairly common and are
by themselves not sufficient to cause the disease, although they increase the risk. Scope of The Study
- The findings of the current study
could help in gaining more insight into the mechanisms involved in the
causation of preeclampsia. With more pieces of the genetic jigsaw puzzle
falling in place, it might be possible to predict women at high risk for
development of preeclampsia in combination with relevant clinical data.
- DNA from an additional 4,220 babies
from preeclamptic gestations in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is currently
being studied in an extended study to see if the same variations are
present near sFlt-1 gene.
Dr Morgan concludes: "Because
pre-eclampsia has its origins in the very early stages of pregnancy, during the
formation of the placenta, research into the causes and processes of the
disease has always been challenging. Now modern genome wide screening and its
data analysis allows us to look for clues in the mother's, father's and their
baby's DNA. We believe the new insights from this study could form the basis
for more effective prevention and treatment of pre-eclampsia in the future, and
improve the outcome of pregnancy for mother and child."References:
- Fetal and maternal contributions to risk of pre-eclampsia: population based study - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC28531/)
- The genetics of pre-eclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3145161/)