Pre-eclampsia, a serious complication during pregnancy, can benefit from advances in immunology and genetics

Publié le : 9 November 2012

 Pre-eclampsia, "a serious complication during pregnancy, can benefit today from new advances thanks to progress made in immunology and genetics." In the absence of treatment, "this condition of the placenta risks developing into convulsions (eclampsia) that can lead to the death of the mother." In 2005, according to the WHO, "eclampsia was the cause of 64,000 maternal deaths, amounting to 12% of these deaths in the world, mainly in the developing countries." The article points out that in France "it now provokes only twenty deaths per year, but its treatment often involves the premature birth of the child to stop the development of the condition," adding that "15% of premature births are  the result of pre-eclampsia."

In recent years, "the progress made in immunology has led to the discovery of special cells of the immune system, called T regulatory cells (Treg), that enable the mother to tolerate her foetus by eliminating the immune responses directed against it." In this regard, recent studies have demonstrated that "irregularities in the functioning of these cells play a role in the onset of pre-eclampsia."
According to Dr Vaiman from INSERM’s Research Unit on the Genetics and Pathologies of Pregnancy," the symptoms are generally less serious during the second pregnancy, especially with the same partner. It is as if the mother’s immune system has learned, probably via the Treg, to be more tolerant vis-à-vis the father’s seminal liquid, rather like in a vaccination.

The article ends by pointing out that the biggest advances concerning this condition have come from genetics: "the first gene of this condition was discovered in 2005 by a Dutch team. This made it possible for the INSERM team of the Institut Cochin to develop a model of pre-eclampsia with mice – whereas this condition does not occur spontaneously with this animal – and to prove that aspirin could be effective in small doses, provided that it was given before the 16th week of pregnancy." Thereafter, "aspirin was given to a series of pregnant women in Blida (Algeria), a population regarded as at risk, leading to an ‘improvement in all the maternal and foetal parameters,’ but its generalised preventive use seems difficult to contemplate owing to the possible secondary effects." Lastly, the American company PerkinElmer has recently developed "a marker, obtained thanks to a blood sample taken between the 11th and the 13th week" enabling women to be screened for the condition.

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