September 14, 2010

Possible Early Detection Method For Preeclampsia Found

A team of researchers say they have discovered a way to predict whether or not an expectant mother will develop a condition known as preeclampsia, which can threaten the lives of both the woman and her unborn child but often cannot be detected until late in a pregnancy.

The study, which appears in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Hypertension and was led by Obstetrics and Gynecology Professor Louise C. Kenny of Ireland's University College Cork (UCC), discovered 14 metabolites that might be able to determine which women are at risk of developing the disorder later on in their pregnancies, according to an AHA press release.

Preeclampsia, which is a condition that results in high blood pressure and elevated protein levels in the urine following the 20th week of pregnancy, is believed to begin during the first trimester with defective development of the placenta. Currently, there is no test which can successfully predict the condition, and there is no known cure outside of a successful delivery.

It is believed to be the leading cause of maternal death, according to the researchers.

As part of their trial, the researchers tested the blood of 60 women who went on to develop preeclampsia during their pregnancy, as well as 60 who did not. The tests, which were conducted at about 15-weeks gestation, found that the women had elevated levels of 40 organic molecules and reduced levels of five others. They then compared those results to the control group, and eventually came up with a list of 14 sugars, fats, and amino acids that differed between the two groups.

According to Reuters reports on Monday, the researchers' test "detected around 90 percent of the cases, with a false positive rate of about 24 percent, meaning 24 percent of the women flagged in the test as having a risk of preeclampsia would never actually develop it."

"Everything we know about this condition suggests women do not become sick and present with preeclampsia until late in pregnancy, but the condition originates in early pregnancy," Kenny said. "To develop effective treatment and prevention strategies--our ultimate goal--we need to be able to start treatment in early pregnancy. We need to be able to tell who is at risk and who is not."

"In the next five years our aim is to develop a simple blood test that will be available to all pregnant women that will detect the risk of preeclampsia in early pregnancy," added Dr. Phil Baker, co-investigator of the study and Dean of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta.


On the Net: