Blood antibody pinpoints deadly preeclampsia

As part of a collaboration between Cottage Health System and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), researchers have found a biomarker that could lead to a test for preeclampsia, a complication of pregnancy that can threaten the life of both mother and unborn child. The results were presented at an International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy meeting in Geneva.

The researchers collected plasma samples over two years from pregnant women, both with and without preeclampsia, and screened the samples for biomarkers. The team found certain antibodies that could lead to a simple blood test, and further studies are ongoing.

"We developed a separation process to sift through enormous numbers of distinct molecules present in blood to identify those few that are uniquely present in patients with preeclampsia," explained Patrick Daugherty, professor of chemical engineering at UCSB.

Preeclampsia affects between 5% and 8% of pregnancies worldwide, and symptoms are high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It usually develops in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, typically after week 32, though it can develop as early as week 20. Preeclampsia is hard to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to those of other conditions seen in pregnancy, and if it progresses to eclampsia, this can lead to a maternal death rate of almost 2%.

The only way to treat preeclampsia currently is to deliver the baby, but correct and early diagnosis can reduce the risk to the pregnant women, and there are agents in development that could be used to prevent or treat the condition.

- read the press release