Washington: Scientists have revealed some novel insight into the leading cause of maternal and infant death worldwide, preeclampsia, that could lead to the development of new therapeutic treatments.
Nihar Nayak, D.V.M., Ph.D., the principal investigator of the study from Wayne State University School of Medicine has said that vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF was essential for normal embryonic development and could stimulate soluble sFlt1 production by the placenta, that signal was involved in the cause of preeclampsia.
Many studies have suggested that elevated circulating levels of sFlt1 (a tyrosine kinase protein that disables proteins essential to blood vessel growth) contributed to the maternal symptoms of vascular dysfunction that characterized preeclampsia, but the molecular underpinnings of sFlt1 up-regulation in preeclampsia have so far been elusive.
Preeclampsia was characterized by a sudden increase in blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy; in addition it could include headaches, swelling in the face and hands, blurred vision, chest pain and shortness of breath. While the condition could be manifested within a few hours, some women report few or no symptoms.
The condition has been responsible for 76,000 maternal deaths and more than 500,000 infant deaths every year, according to estimates from the Preeclampsia Foundation.
If left undetected, the condition could progress to 'eclampsia' and the mother may begin convulsing. For the fetus, preeclampsia has been connected to a reduction in placental blood flow, resulting in physical and mental disability, the slowing of fetal development, and in severe cases, infants could be stillborn.
Even if treated successfully, preeclampsia could bring future health problems for mothers. Women who have had pre eclampsia have double the risk for heart disease and stroke over the next five to 15 years after they are treated.
The study was published in the online version of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.