February 13, 2013
Researchers Say Infant Deaths Can Be Prevented
An international team of tropical medicine researchers have discovered a potential method for preventing low birth weight in babies born to pregnant women who are exposed to malaria. Low birth weight is the leading cause of infant death globally.
The findings of Malaria Impairs Placental Vascular Development, published today online ahead of print in Cell Host & Microbe, showed that the protein C5a and its receptor, C5aR, seem to control the blood vessel development in the mother's placenta. Without adequate blood vessels in the placenta, the baby's growth can't be sustained and the baby is born low birth weight.
Researchers determined that excessive activation of a complement protein C5 occurs in pregnant women with malaria and alters the ability of the placenta to grow blood vessels required to sustain the developing baby.
When C5a-C5aR was blocked in genetic models, researchers found it increased placental blood vessels and improved survival and growth of the fetus. They replicated the study using a drug that blocked C5a with the same results.
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