Preeclampsia is a life-threatening condition that only occurs during pregnancy. Some of the more common side effects include protein in urine and high blood pressure. Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine have found a connection between white blood cells and preeclampsia. According to researchers, if white blood cells can be controlled there could be a new treatment for preeclampsia.

Currently there is no treatment or cure for preeclampsia. If symptoms of the condition arise during pregnancy, the expectant mother must give birth to prevent the condition from worsening and threatening her life and the life of the fetus. Researchers believe white blood cells called neutrophilis are responsible. White blood cells push reactive oxygen into the bloodstream. This reactive oxygen causes the blood vessels to trigger a hormone known to increase blood pressure. This hormone causes smooth muscle tissue to become hypersensitive to hormones and thus increases blood pressure.

Preeclampsia was described in a clinical setting more than 40 years ago, but this is the first study that places a tangible cause to the deadliest side effect of the condition. If researchers can develop a treatment to control neutrophilis during pregnancy, especially late in pregnancy when preeclampsia is more likely to develop, the treatment could hold the key to a preeclampsia cure.

The results of the research study were published in Hypertension. Hypertension is a journal on high blood pressure funded by the American Heart Association. Further research is needed to put these new findings into play in a clinical setting, but doctors are excited about the possible ramifications. There was no mention in the study about future research plans or theories about how future studies would be used to develop a treatment.

Source: Nikita Mishra, William H. Nugent, Sunila Mahavadi, Scott W. Walsh. Hypertension. 31 October, 2011.