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First genes linked to pre-eclampsia and immune system disorders

28 March 2011

By Owen Clark

Appeared in BioNews 601

A study has linked mutations in three genes with the severe pregnancy condition, pre-eclampsia. The international research team say they're the first to link genetic mutations and pre-eclampsia in women with the autoimmune disorder - lupus. The findings also link immune system dysfunction with the risk of developing the condition.

The researchers suggest this study could help find new targets for treating pre-eclampsia, which can only be stopped by delivering the baby. This can be risky if the baby is delivered prematurely.

'This study identifies the first genetic risk factors associated with pre-eclampsia in patients with lupus and also validates these risk factors in a population of patients who do not have an autoimmune disease', said study author Dr Jane Salmon from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, in the Daily Mail.

The international research team analysed DNA from 250 pregnant women diagnosed with lupus and other autoimmune disorders, which increase the risk of developing the condition.

To understand whether the body's immune response is associated with pre-eclampsia, the team sequenced three genes encoding proteins that play regulatory roles in the immune system. These were membrane cofactor protein (MCP), complement factor I (CFI), and complement factor H (CFH).

Of the 40 women who developed pre-eclampsia, 18 percent had heterozygous mutations in these genes. Similar genetic mutations were found among five of 59 women with pre-eclampsia who did not have an autoimmune disorder.

Professor Basky Thilaganathan from the UK's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said to the BBC: 'This work shows an association. At best genes like these might identify 10-15 percent of pre-eclampsia, so its relative importance may not be sensational. But it may allow us to study new treatments to prevent or delay the onset of pre-eclampsia and to know which women need closer surveillance'.

Pre-eclampsia affects four in every 100 pregnant women leading to high blood pressure and kidney dysfunction, but its exact cause is unknown. The study was published in the open-access journal PLoS Medicine.


19 June 2017 - by Cara Foley 
The fetal immune system is more mature in the second trimester than previously thought, which could assist research into diseases, miscarriage and immune tolerance, researchers say...

21 February 2011 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
A gene important in autoimmune disease has been linked to pre-eclampsia, a serious complication of pregnancy. The study from scientists at North Carolina State University looked at the genes that are switched on and off in the human placenta, to find genes that are differently expressed in pre-eclampsia...
29 November 2010 - by Kyrillos Georgiadis 
A small study has recently suggested that women who use donated eggs in IVF could be at a higher risk of developing pre-eclampsia, a common but potentially dangerous pregnancy complication....
19 September 2005 - by BioNews 
Men and women born following a pregnancy affected by pre-eclampsia can both pass an increased risk of the condition on to the next generation, a Norwegian study has found. Scientists at the University of Bergen used data from the country's birth registry to show that daughters of women affected by...
08 April 2005 - by BioNews 
Dutch researchers have identified a faulty gene that causes pre-eclampsia in some families affected by the disease. Scientists at the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam say the identification of the gene, dubbed STOX1, could lead to new tests for the condition. Women at risk could then be given preventative...
15 October 2004 - by BioNews 
Certain combinations of maternal and fetal genes might increase the risk of pre-eclampsia, the most common serious complication of pregnancy, UK scientists say.The researchers, based at Cambridge University, think some genetic variations that affect the mother's immune system could influence the supply of nutrients to the developing fetus. The...

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