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Researchers discover link between high levels of HtrA1 protein

Mayo Clinic researchers have found an association between abnormally high levels of a protein named HtrA1 and preeclampsia, a sudden and dangerous rise in blood pressure that can result in premature delivery, disability or death for mother and fetus. The condition, which affects 5 to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide, constitutes a medical emergency and often requires a Caesarean section delivery. The condition is estimated to cause 50,000 to 76,000 maternal deaths each year.

The Mayo Clinic work is the first to link high levels of HtrA1 in third-trimester placental tissues with severe preeclampsia. The results will be reported at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine annual meeting in Miami.

Though preliminary, the findings may one day lead to development of a blood test to track HtrA1 levels to identify women at risk of preeclampsia. Currently no predictive test exists for preeclampsia.

Notes Brian Brost, M.D., Mayo Clinic high-risk pregnancy specialist and senior study investigator, "It is certainly too early to say HtrA1 is a biomarker of preeclampsia, but the initial results are really encouraging, because the cause of this serious complication of pregnancy has not been well understood."

Funminiyi Ajayi, M.D., Mayo researcher and co-author of the paper, collected the placental samples and reviewed the results. "From a basic science point of view, this is an important contribution to understanding a complex series of events that we hope one day to be able to reverse or prevent," says Dr. Ajayi.

Significance of the Mayo Clinic Research

The Mayo Clinic researchers are the first to take two important steps toward developing a better understanding of preeclampsia. These "firsts" consist of:

  1. Evaluating an association between preeclampsia and levels of HtrA1 found in placental tissues. The Mayo Clinic researchers tested levels of HtrA1 in specific cells of placentas obtained from women diagn
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Contact: Lisa Lucier
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
1-Feb-2006


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