Statins may prevent miscarriages

October 11th, 2008 - 2:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 11 (IANS) Statins may be able to prevent miscarriages in women suffering from pregnancy complications caused by antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), say researchers on the basis of trials with mice. APS is an auto-immune syndrome, in which the body produces antibodies directed at phospholipids, the main components of cell membranes, according to a study.

In low risk pregnancies, APS is associated with a nine-fold increase in miscarriage. In high-risk pregnancies (women who have had at least three prior losses), APS is associated with a 90 percent risk of miscarriage.

“Statins may work as a treatment for women with APS-induced pregnancy complications,” said Guillermina Girardi, associate scientist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, who is a co-author of the study.

“They are drugs that have been shown to be very safe. There are a lot of women who continue to take statins through pregnancy and the drugs have not been shown to produce birth defects.” Statins do not increase the risk of bleeding like anticoagulants, the current treatment for patients with APS.

Girardi and colleagues examined the white blood cells from mice that had APS and discovered that these cells expressed certain receptors called PAR2 (protease-activated receptor 2).

Stimulating this receptor led to the activation of white blood cells that attacked the placenta and hurt the foetus. Using an antibody that blocks tissue factor interaction with PAR-2, they inhibited white blood cell activation, a press release of the Hospital for Special Surgery said.

In another experiment, investigators tested a possible treatment. Previous studies had shown that statins, commonly used to regulate cholesterol levels, could downregulate tissue factor (diminish the number of molecules expressed on the surface of the cell).

Girardi and colleagues found that statins not only downregulate tissue factor, but they also downregulate PAR-2 on white blood cells, making the cells less sensitive. So, the researchers injected statins into mice with APS and found that these drugs could prevent white blood cell activation and protect pregnancies.

The study was published in the October issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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