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Home Industry News Scientists make pre-eclampsia breakthrough

Scientists make pre-eclampsia breakthrough

12th May 2008

Scientists have discovered a potential test and treatment target for the pregnancy disorder pre-eclampsia.

Researchers at the Beth Deaconess Medical Centre found that the COMT gene plays a role in pre-eclampsia and that a steroid molecule named 2-ME could be both a target for tests and therapeutic supplement for treatment of the disorder.

The COMT enzyme contributes to the breakdown of oestrogen into 2-ME.

In tests the researchers found that COMT levels were deficient and 2-ME levels were lower in pregnant women with pre-eclampsia.

After discovering this, the team studied genetically engineered COMT-deficient mice.

They found that the animals failed to produce 2-ME and at 14-weeks gestation – the presumed equivalent of the beginning of the third trimester in human pregnancy – the mice developed protein leak in the urine, high blood pressure and problems with placental blood vessels associated with decreased oxygen levels.

The animals also delivered about a day earlier than normal pregnant mice and there was a greater rate of stillborn pups.

When 2-ME was administered to the mice, this resulted in a reversal of pre-eclampsia-like symptoms.

Dr Raghu Kalluri, the study’s senior author, said loss of 2-ME appears to “set in motion a cascade of events culminating in pre-eclampsia”.

“This study offers the possibility of screening for COMT gene defects in pregnant women to predict preeclampsia.”

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