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Genetic Connection Found for Pre-Eclampsia

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Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition in pregnancy that puts both a mother’s and baby’s life at risk – but a new discovery could help lead to better identification of high-risk women and better treatment options.

Pre-eclampsia is a condition characterized by high blood pressure, swelling, rapid weight gain and excess protein in the urine. Though it is rare, occurring in only roughly 7 to 10 percent of pregnancies, it can be serious even in its mildest form.

Though the exact causes of pre-eclampsia aren’t known, a new study out of New York City has found that women with specific genetic defects may be more predisposed to developing the condition. The study was conducted on 250 women with the autoimmune diseases lupus and / or antiphospholipid syndrome (APS). Of the women, 30 developed pre-eclampsia while the study was taking place, and 10 women reported experiencing pre-eclampsia with a prior pregnancy.

Specific genes in the women were studied and it was found that 7 out of the 40 women had a mutation – this mutation was also found in 5 of 59 women who did not have autoimmune diseases but who did develop pre-eclampsia. These comparative results were taken from the Universal Samples Database at the University of Utah.

The full study can be read in the PLoS Medicine journal. While the findings in the study are still tenuous and a larger test group will be needed to provide more conclusive results, the researchers involved believe it is a positive first step toward identifying risk factors and treatments for pre-eclampsia.

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