Researchers testing placentas after infant births may have found a gene marker. The gene is associated with the immune system and may be the cause of some cases of preeclampsia.

Doctors note that preeclampsia affects only 10% of pregnant women, but in these cases pregnancy health risks and risks to the fetus are increased exponentially. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery of the fetus, though symptoms can be controlled in some cases to prolong the pregnancy. The total number of pregnancies affected by preeclampsia account for 15% of the total preterm birth statistic.

Symptoms of preeclampsia include increased blood pressure that could cause stroke or death to the pregnant woman if undetected. Preeclampsia is now considered to be a type of autoimmune response and the gene marker found in the tested placentas supports this theory.

The study was completed by researchers at NC State and Duke University School of Medicine. The genetics of placentas delivered from women suffering from preeclampsia were used for the study. The enzyme found out of balance plays a part in SIAE. SIAE, or sialic acid modification, coats cells of the body so they are recognized as part of the body and not an intruder. If this process does not take place, the cells are considered foreign and the immune system kicks in to fight off foreign bodies.

Researchers are now closer to finding the starting point for preeclampsia, but further research is needed to find the cause of the SIAE process being out of balance.

< Preeclampsia

Source: North Carolina State University. 15 February, 2011.