A new clue to predicting pre-eclampsia

(L-R) Dr David Eviston, new mother Kristy Herd Hayley Herd and Professor Ralph Nanan.

(Medical Xpress) -- An indication of whether a mother will develop pre-eclampsia, the most common and severe pregnancy-related disease, has been identified by a University of Sydney study.

As reported in The Sydney Morning Herald today the findings, published in the latest edition of the Journal of Reproductive Immunology, could allow the early detection of pre-eclampsia, which currently cannot be diagnosed by symptoms before the disease occurs.

The research also suggests the womb may have a lasting impact on a child's immune system.

"Pre-eclampsia affects an estimated 5000 to 10,000 women in Australia every year," said Professor Ralph Nanan, senior author of the study, from Sydney Medical School Nepean.

It develops in mothers out of the blue, usually in the last three months of pregnancy, causing , kidney and and severe blood changes. Delivering the baby as soon as possible is the only way to stop it."

In pre-eclampsia the mother's immune system appears to attack the fetus.

"Our study looked at the thymus of the fetus, a structure which sits behind the baby's and is known as the 'cradle' of an important set of called thymus-derived lymphocytes or ," said Professor Nanan.

No previous study has looked at the effect of the disease on the fetal .

"Surprisingly we found the thymus of babies whose mother developed pre-eclampsia was significantly smaller than in babies of healthy pregnant women."

What further surprised the researchers was that these changes were obvious in mid-pregnancy, long before the mother developed any signs of pre-eclampsia.

"This is a very interesting finding as the thymus plays a central role in shaping the child's immune system and protecting it against the development of allergies, autoimmune disease and cancers later in life," Professor Nanan said.

The group is now conducting a prospective study with over 1200 pregnant women to confirm the findings with the long-term prospect of developing a test for pre-eclampsia. It is also conducting studies which aim to describe the short and long-term effects that early thymus changes have on the child's immune system and on the development of immune diseases.

The study was conducted by David Eviston, Ann Quinton and a team of researchers from Sydney Medical School Nepean.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pre-eclampsia linked to thyroid problems

Nov 18, 2009

Women who develop pre-eclampsia during pregnancy are more likely than other women to have reduced thyroid function (hypothyroidism), finds a study published in BMJ today. It may also put women at a greater risk of thyroi ...

Test for pre-eclampsia developed

May 04, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists at King’s have pioneered a new method of identifying early in pregnancy which healthy first-time mothers are at risk of developing pre-eclampsia, a potentially life ...

Recommended for you

Multiple allergic reactions traced to single protein

6 hours ago

Johns Hopkins and University of Alberta researchers have identified a single protein as the root of painful and dangerous allergic reactions to a range of medications and other substances. If a new drug can ...

Gene-environment connection seen in peanut allergy study

Dec 15, 2014

(HealthDay)—Infants of a particular generation born in Australia to Asian-born parents appeared to have an increased risk of peanut allergy compared with those of Australian-born parents, according to research ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.