"We may have reached a turning point in the extensive federal research investigation of this frequent, life-threatening complication of pregnancy," said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the NICHD. "This finding sets the stage for the development of a test to screen women for high risk of preeclampsia. Once these women are identified through such a test, we can target studies to find effective ways to prevent its progression or to keep the most dangerous complications from occurring."
The researchers found women were highly likely to develop preeclampsia if they had low levels of a substance known as placental growth factor (PlGF) in their urine. PlGF works in combination with a substance called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Together, the two substances foster the growth of new blood vessels, and maintain the health of cells that line the inside of blood vessels, including those in the placenta that support the developing fetus. The researchers believe that the high blood pressure and other symptoms characteristic of preeclampsia result from low levels of PlGF and VEGF.
Researchers are making plans to refine the finding into an accurate clinical test.
The study appears in the January 5 Journal of the American Medical Association. It was conducted by researchers at the NICHD, Harvard University Medical School, the Harvard School of Public Health, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Allied Technology Group, and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Much of the funding for the study was provided by the NICHD and another of the NIH Institutes, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
A few women--such as those pregnant with more th
Contact: Bob Bock or Marianne Glass Miller
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development