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Foetal gene linked to pre-eclampsia

Friday September 1st, 2017

Norwegian researchers say they have found a gene in foetuses that can contribute to a pregnant woman developing pre-eclampsia.

The researchers say they have achieved the world's largest genetic study of the problem.

They have pin-pointed the FLT-1 gene, which releases a protein that can damaged the mother's vascular system. They say that variants found near the gene trigger the problem.

The findings, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, were originally reported in Nature Genetics and have emerged from a major EU investigation of pre-eclampsia.

Researcher Ann-Charlotte Iversen said: “For the first time ever, we have discovered a foetal gene that increases the risk of pre-eclampsia.

“Our findings are particularly solid for three reasons: we analysed a large number of individuals, we found several genetic variables that all point to the same gene associated with the risk, and two independent population studies confirmed that this gene is associated with the risk."

She explained: “We have shown here that the risk of disease may be because changes in the gene affect how the protein works and how it affects the mother. This is a foetal gene that gives the mother an increased risk of developing pre-eclampsia.

"This find clearly brings us closer to a better understanding of preeclampsia."

She added: "This reinforces our conviction that foetal cells play an active role, and represents a big change in thinking, since research has previously focused most on the mother’s immune system. If we want to prevent pre-eclampsia, we have to understand the foundation for the disease."

Variants in the fetal genome near FLT1 are associated with risk of preeclampsia. Nature Genetics June 2017; doi:10.1038/ng.3895 [abstract]

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Europe | Genetics | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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