Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tracing the Molecular Causes of Preeclampsia – a Life-threatening Disease for Mother and Child

10.09.2012
Preeclampsia is one of the most dangerous conditions for the expectant mother and the unborn child and is characterized by elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine in the last trimester of pregnancy.
The cause for this life-threatening disease has long remained elusive. Recently however, Dr. Ananth Karumanchi (Associate Professor of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center & Harvard Medical School, Boston, , USA) has identified a new molecular pathway that leads to preeclampsia in humans and thus creating new avenues for the development of a therapy, he reported at the 1st ECRC Franz Volhard Symposium on September 8, 2012 at the Max Delbrück Center (MDC) Berlin-Buch.

“Preeclampsia is among the three diseases that cause death amongst mothers, their unborn and newly born babies, accounting for nearly 70,000 maternal deaths a year worldwide,” Dr. Karumanchi pointed out in Berlin. The other two are severe bleeding and infection. Researchers suspect that the number of deaths caused by preeclampsia is underreported and is actually much higher. “Preeclampsia is especially lethal in the underdeveloped world where medical care and facilities for emergencies and for caring for premature babies are lacking,” Dr. Karumanchi said. Therefore, the death rate among those newborns is clearly higher than in countries with better medical care.

However, preeclampsia is a serious problem in industrialized countries, too. In Germany, for example, every year more than 20,000 babies are born prematurely due to preeclampsia. “In fact preeclampsia is among the leading causes of prematurely born babies,” Dr. Karumanchi stressed. As each additional week in the uterus of the mother lowers fetal morbidity and mortality, physicians strive to prolong pregnancy without compromising the safety of the mother.

If the condition becomes too dangerous for the pregnant woman, they intervene and induce labor. As soon as the child is born, the mother’s symptoms disappear. But later in life the mothers can develop heart disease, hypertension and thyroid disorders due to preeclampsia. And premature babies run the risk, if they survive, of life-long disability.

Findings on molecular causes open up avenues for early diagnosis as well as therapy

Dr. Karumanchi was able to show that the placenta, the organ in the uterus which nourishes the embryo and the fetus, plays an important role in the onset of preeclampsia. It releases two different proteins. One of the proteins, the PlGF (placental growth factor) makes blood vessels grow towards the placenta. It is an angiogenisis factor which is part of the VEGF family, a large group of proteins that induces blood vessel growth. The antagonist to PlGF is sFlt-1 (soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1). It binds to PlGF and inhibits blood vessel growth. The levels of these two proteins in the blood of the pregnant women must be in balance for mother and unborn baby to stay healthy.

Dr. Karumanchi’s team discovered that pregnant women with preeclampsia have too much sFlt-1 circulating in their blood, and too little PlGF. As a result the placenta is no longer well supplied with blood, and the fetus does not get enough nutrients. Also, lack of PlGF constricts the blood vessels, and the expectant mother’s blood pressure becomes elevated – the main symptom of preeclampsia. As the kidneys are affected, too, the patient develops proteinuria, characterized by too much protein in the urine.

Whereas formerly preeclampsia in pregnant women could only be diagnosed by these symptoms – hypertension and proteinuria – the findings of Dr. Karumanchi now make it possible to detect preeclampsia at a very early stage, even before the first symptoms appear. Researchers and clinicians measure sFlt-1 and PlGF levels and they can determine if sFLT-1 levels are too high. They can then monitor the expectant mothers at a very early stage and help prevent the disease from progressing in order to avoid seizures and liver failure.

Dr. Karumanchi’s research has already led to the first step to treat the disease through extracorporeal removal of excessive sFLT-1 from the blood. In a pilot study, Professor Ravi Thadhani (a colleague of his at Harvard Medical School) working with nephrologists and obstetricians in Germany (Cologne and Leipzig), showed last year that a single treatment of five pregnant women with preeclampsia lowered elevated levels of sFLt-1 in the blood. Repeated treatment of three additional patients with preeclampsia in the early onset of pregnancy (28, 27, 30 weeks of pregnancy) could reduce not only sFlt-1 but also proteinuria and stabilize blood pressure without apparent adverse events to either mother or fetus. In addition, the obstetricians were able to prolong pregnancy duration thus allowing the delivery of healthier babies. Dr. Karumanchi stressed that further studies are necessary to determine whether this intervention safely and effectively prolongs pregnancy and improves the condition of mother and child.

Contact:
Barbara Bachtler
Press Department
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch
in the Helmholtz Association
Robert-Rössle-Straße 10; 13125 Berlin; Germany
Phone: +49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 96
Fax: +49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 33
e-mail: presse@mdc-berlin.de

Barbara Bachtler | Max-Delbrück-Centrum
Further information:
http://www.mdc-berlin.de/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

nachricht How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>