A substance found in the urine of pregnant women can be measured to predict the later development of preeclampsia, according to research from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health.
"We may have reached a turning point in the extensive federal research investigation of this frequent, life-threatening complication of pregnancy," said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the NICHD. "This finding sets the stage for the development of a test to screen women for high risk of preeclampsia. Once these women are identified through such a test, we can target studies to find effective ways to prevent its progression or to keep the most dangerous complications from occurring."
The researchers found women were highly likely to develop preeclampsia if they had low levels of a substance known as placental growth factor (PlGF) in their urine. PlGF works in combination with a substance called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Together, the two substances foster the growth of new blood vessels, and maintain the health of cells that line the inside of blood vessels, including those in the placenta that support the developing fetus. The researchers believe that the high blood pressure and other symptoms characteristic of preeclampsia result from low levels of PlGF and VEGF.
Bob Bock | EurekAlert!
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