From Our 2004 Archives

Genetic Clue to Preeclampsia Found

TUESDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDayNews) -- Researchers have identified a genetic factor that can help predict whether a woman will suffer a risky pregnancy, according to an article in the Oct. 18 issue of The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

The scientists found that an abnormal combination of proteins produced by a mother and her developing fetus can increase the risk of preeclampsia, a serious complication of pregnancy.

Preeclampsia develops when the cells responsible for routing blood and nutrients to the placenta can't do their job. The result is decreased blood flow to the fetus, a situation that threatens both mother and developing child.

The fetal cells responsible for that task, called trophoblast cells, perform that job by communicating with maternal immune cells known as natural killer (NK) cells. The NK cells then follow the trophoblasts' orders, shaping blood flow to match the needs of the fetus

But doctors found that a particular type of protein on the trophoblast combined with its receptor on NK cells can cause a false signal that suppresses the NK cells, potentially causing preeclampsia.

-- Dennis Thompson

SOURCES: Journal of Experimental Medicine, news release, Oct. 11, 2004

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