Identifying the Cause of Preeclampsia and Potential Treatment

Identifying the Cause of Preeclampsia and Potential Treatment

Researchers from Western University and Brown University have made progress in understanding the cause of preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy complication. Preeclampsia affects up to eight percent of pregnancies globally and is a leading cause of maternal and fetal mortality. The research, led by Drs. Kun Ping Lu and Xiao Zhen Zhou at Western University, and Drs. Surendra Sharma and Sukanta Jash at Brown University, has identified a toxic protein called cis P-tau in the blood and placenta of preeclampsia patients.

The study, published in Nature Communications, reveals that cis P-tau is a central cause of preeclampsia and plays a major role in the development of this deadly complication. Currently, delivery before the full term is the only life-saving measure for preeclampsia. However, this research identifies cis P-tau as a potential biomarker for early diagnosis and a therapeutic target for treatment.

The researchers also discovered that cis P-tau is associated with neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injuries, and stroke. An antibody developed by Dr. Zhou in 2012 to target the toxic protein has shown promising results in treating brain conditions in animal models and human cell cultures. This antibody is currently undergoing clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injuries. The researchers tested the antibody in mouse models of preeclampsia and observed that it depleted the toxic protein in the blood and placenta, normalizing the pregnancy and eliminating features associated with preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia disproportionately affects Black and Hispanic women, with genetic factors possibly contributing to higher blood pressure levels. However, the link to other environmental factors is still unclear. Recent research also suggested a heightened risk of dementia later in life for both mothers who have experienced preeclampsia and their children, but the underlying cause is unknown. The new study concludes that cis P-tau may provide a deeper connection between preeclampsia and brain-related health issues.

The researchers believe that stress and other environmental factors may play a role in the onset of preeclampsia. They identified a stress-response enzyme called Pin1 that activates in response to stressors, maintaining proteins like tau in their functional shape. When the Pin1 enzyme is inactivated, it leads to the formation of toxic cis P-tau, contributing to memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injuries, and stroke. This study suggests a connection between Pin1 and preeclampsia.

Overall, this research has significant implications for understanding and treating pregnancy-related issues and brain disorders. Identifying the cause of preeclampsia and developing potential treatments could revolutionize patient care for these conditions.

– Nature Communications
– Drs. Kun Ping Lu, Xiao Zhen Zhou, Surendra Sharma, Sukanta Jash

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