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New treatment promises hope for women with pre-eclampsia

Posted:  Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure in pregnancy coupled with protein excretion in the urine is one of the most common and serious complications that can affect both mother and the baby. The only cure for this could be delivering the baby. However, American researchers in their new study found that removing a protein from the blood helps stabilise blood pressure and also reduce the amount of protein excreted in the urine. This helped prolong the pregnancy by 8 days in women treated once and by 15 days in women treated multiple times.

The protein in question is called soluble Fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 (sFlt-1). It is known to alter blood vessel growth and is believed to play a role in modulating the signs and symptoms of pre-eclampsia. The researchers conducted an open pilot study among 11 pregnant women with very preterm preeclampsia (23-32 weeks' gestation). The results were published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN)

They employed a process called ‘apheresis’ to remove sFlt-1 from the blood. The process involved passing the blood through a column lined with a material that binds to sFlt-1 and retains it. The treated blood is then returned to the body. This treatment significantly reduced the amount of protein excreted in the urine and transiently reduced blood pressure.

This resulted in prolonging the pregnancy by an average of 8 days and 15 days in women treated once and multiple times, respectively, compared with 3 days in 22 untreated women with preeclampsia. The researchers did not observe any negative effect of apheresis among children born to mothers who were treated in comparison to premature infants born to women with or without preeclampsia.

“Our pilot study suggested we can safely prolong pregnancy when we target removal of sFlt-1 in women with severe preterm preeclampsia, and we hope this is confirmed in randomised trials. Prolonging pregnancy allows the baby to mature, markedly reducing complications,” commented lead researcher Dr. Ravi Thadhani, MD, MPH from Massachusetts General Hospital.

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