Discovery holds promise for early preeclampsia diagnosis
It doesn’t seem possible that a condition so dangerous is still without a cure. Preeclampsia, a devastating disorder that kills over 70,000 women and 500,000 babies each year occurs very suddenly in the second half of pregnancy. Not only does preeclampsia cause severe health problems for both mother and baby it also increases the risk of developing life-long chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Now, the discovery of two new biomarkers has the potential to change the way the disease is managed.
The details of the discovery of these two novel biomarkers, called FKBPL and CD44, has recently been published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Senior author, Dr Lana McClements from the University of Technology Sydney, said the biomarkers can be used to diagnose and assess the risk of getting preeclampsia in both early and late pregnancy, “in women who otherwise appear healthy”.
“There are two main types of preeclampsia: early-onset preeclampsia diagnosed before 34 weeks of a pregnancy and late-onset preeclampsia diagnosed from 34 weeks onwards”, Dr McClements said.
“The vast majority of the current screening and monitoring strategies are focused on early-onset preeclampsia, which comprises only 10-15% of all preeclampsia cases, whereas late preeclampsia has been largely neglected,’ she said.
The researchers say the two biomarkers are particularly useful for diagnosing cases of late-onset preeclampsia, between the second and third trimester, a period that currently lacks reliable biomarkers.
The biomarkers allow the prediction of irregular placenta or maternal vascular function, which are key underlying causes of preeclampsia, therefore also giving insight into disease mechanisms and possible treatment targets, Dr McClements said.
The research also has potential to enhance the development of therapeutics to treat preeclampsia because the increase in one of the biomarkers, FKBPL, can be inhibited by mesenchymal stem cells potentially stopping the development of preeclampsia.
“This is why we are so excited by the discovery. In addition to their use in diagnosis, FKBPL and CD44 also show potential as drug and cell therapy targets of emerging treatments for preeclampsia, which offers hope for a future cure to this terrible disorder,” Dr McClements said.
Other institutions involved in the research are Queen’s University Belfast, UK; Medical University Graz, Austria; Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Ireland; University College Cork, Ireland; University of Liverpool, UK; University of Belgrade, Serbia; The Hashemite University, Jordan; Mayo Clinic, USA; Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, UK
Proof-of-Concept grant by Invest Northern Ireland
Department for the Economy (DfE) - Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF)
DfE PhD studentship, Northern Ireland