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Pregnancy killer breakthrough

Thursday October 7th, 2010

British researchers have announced a breakthrough in the battle to tackle blood pressure problems in pregnancy.

The new discoveries on pre-eclampsia were made at Cambridge University and Nottingham University.

Experts said they offered "real hope" of developing new ways of tackling the condition - and potentially of high blood pressure as problem.

Pre-eclampsia is one of the biggest killers of pregnant women - responsible for six deaths a year in the UK and the loss of hundreds of babies.

The discovery explains how angiotensin hormones - which constrict the blood vessels - come to be released and was published last night in the leading scientific journal Nature.

Jubilant researchers explained the significance of the findings.

Researcher Dr Aiwu Zhou, from Cambridge, said: "Although we primarily focused on pre-eclampsia, the research also opens new leads for future research into the causes of hypertension in general."

Professor Fiona Broughton Pipkin, an obstetrician in Nottingham, said: "We sent coded samples to Cambridge and were thrilled when we broke the code to find that the results fitted our prediction beautifully. They also fit with the changes in the placenta in pre-eclampsia.

"This is an absolutely novel approach, which is providing new insights into what goes wrong in pre-eclampsia."

Project leader Professor Robin Carrell, from Cambridge, explained: "During pregnancy oxidative changes can occur in the placenta. These changes, the very ones we have found stimulates the release of the hormone angiotensin and lead to increased blood pressure, can arise as the circulation in the placenta readjusts the oxygen requirements of the growing foetus with the delivery of oxygen to the placenta from the mother."

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation - which helped finance the research - praised the quality of the research.

He said: "Every year in the UK pre-eclampsia is responsible for the deaths of around six women and several hundred babies. This research is of the highest quality and offers real hope for developing strategies to prevent or treat this dangerous condition by targeting the process that these scientists have identified.

"And of course, although the researchers only looked at pre-eclampsia in this study, similar strategies may be useful for those people with high blood pressure that is not effectively controlled by current medicines.”

Nature October 8 2010

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Heart Health | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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