Warring placenta, uterus trigger preeclampsia

October 11th, 2011 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 11 (IANS) A battle raging within the womb - between the father’s biological motive to produce a big and healthy baby versus the mother’s need to live through delivery - may bring on preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia is a deadly condition that triggers high blood pressure and protein into the mother’s urine. Delivery of the baby is the only known cure for the condition.

The foetus must be big enough to thrive, yet small enough to pass through the birth canal. In a new study, Yale researchers describe the mechanism that keeps these conflicting goals in balance.

The battle is waged between the mother’s uterus and the baby’s placenta, made up of cells called trophoblasts that are controlled by the father, reports the journal Reproductive Sciences.

Led by Harvey J. Kliman, scientist in obstetrics, gynaecology & reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, researchers observed how the placenta tricks the mother so she doesn’t attack the trophoblasts, trying to increase her blood flow into placenta.

If this placental deception doesn’t work, the mother may develop preeclampsia, according to a Yale School of Medicine statement.

The placenta’s job is to get nutrients from the mother during pregnancy. Kliman explained that in a normal pregnancy, specialised invasive trophoblasts leave the placenta and invade the mother’s tissues to attack and destroy the walls of her blood vessels.

This allows the most blood possible to enter the placenta, resulting in a big baby. But the mother’s own called lymphocytes or white blood cells, responsible for immunity, are on the lookout to destroy the invasive trophoblast cells.

The placenta in turn appears to trick the mother by creating a diversion by secreting a protein called placental protein 13 (PP13), into the mother’s blood where it travels through her veins into the uterus below the placenta.

There the PP13 leaves the veins where it triggers the mother’s immune system to react and attack. The entire area around these veins becomes a mass of inflammation and dead cells, called necrosis.

“We believe that maintaining this balance could be the key to a healthy pregnancy, free from preeclampsia,” concluded Kilman.

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