Apr 19, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Preeclampsia, As Well As Cure For It, May Be Due To Altered Immune Cells

May 04, 2017 07:25 AM EDT

When a pregnant woman gets placental ischemia, her immune system's natural killer (NK) cells get activated and alter in response. Disrupting the altered cells can reduce some of the dangers to the mother and child, including that of preeclampsia, which is a complication that translates into high blood pressure (hypertension) and inflammation in the mother, as well as reduced growth in the fetus.

It is not clear what leads to preeclampsia. But when blood flow to the placenta (placental ischemia) gets reduced, it is thought to lead to the development of the pregnancy-related condition. Experts presented a study at the APS annual meeting, Experimental Biology, this year. Researchers showed that the immune system's natural killer (NK) cells get activated and alter while responding to placental ischemia. Disrupting the changed cells brings down some complications of the condition, including high blood pressure (hypertension) and inflammation in the mother as well as the restriction in the development of the fetus, according to ScienceDaily.

Some women are more at risk of getting exposed to preeclampsia, including those women who have suffered from it in earlier pregnancies. Women who had multiple fetuses or those who were obese also suffer from the complication. Preeclampsia is a condition that affects 5 to 8 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. It affects most pregnant women in the third trimester. It leads to pregnancy-related blood pressure along with affected kidneys as well as other organs, according to Medical News.

Preeclampsia can pose a big threat to mothers as well as infants and even lead to issues such as "maternal blood clots, bleeding, organ failure, and seizures, and fetal growth restriction, hypoxia, and mortality". Experts from the University of Mississippi Medical Center probed how the placental ischemia and NK cells interact with each other.

They explained that right now preeclampsia can be cured only when the fetus and the placenta are delivered. At the time hypertension and other symptoms of preeclampsia get remitted. Still, when there is an early delivery of the fetus, it could lead to greater morbidity for the child in the long term.

Research findings can give a target for new, much-needed therapies for preeclampsia. When the additional options for cures through altering the NK cells are identified, they can enable the pregnancy to continue, leading to improved maternal and fetal outcomes.

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