This month, researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine have discovered that a high amount of a certain enzyme in the blood vessels of pregnant women may have an association with symptoms of the condition preeclampsia, such as “hypertension, swelling and protein in the urine.”
The results of the study could lead to a treatment for the life-threatening condition that involves several health complications, such as premature delivery and death for the mother and / or the fetus, if left untreated.
Until today, there is still no confirmed cause of preeclampsia, and so far, only the delivery of the baby is the known treatment. Blood vessels among women with preeclampsia have been found to be dysfunctional, and among the characteristic symptoms of the condition include high blood pressure and the loss of protein in the mother’s urine.
According to the study published in the journal The American Journal of Pathology, they observed a notable increase in the amount of the enzyme MMP-1 in the blood vessels of women with preeclampsia. Along with this, they also noticed irregularities in the amount of genes which regulate the breakdown of collagen.
Said author Scott Walsh, Ph.D., professor in the VCU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, “The increase in MMP-1 that we found would compromise the integrity of the mother's blood vessels, which could explain two of the clinical symptoms of preeclampsia -- edema and proteinuria,"
Edema is the swelling and retention of fluid in body tissues while proteinuria is protein in the urine, the presence of which is a sign of preeclampsia. The enzyme MMP-1 also causes triggers the activation of a receptor called PAR1 which causes blood vessel contraction. This reaction can be linked to the high blood pressure of those with preeclampsia.
Another discovery was that white blood cells and their products heighten the amount of the enzyme MMP-1 and the receptor PAR1 in blood vessels which causes the general symptoms of preeclampsia.
SOURCES: • January 4, 2011. “Enzyme Findings May Help Explain Some Major Clinical Symptoms of Preeclampsia” Sciencedaily.com • January 5, 2011. “Enzyme may explain preeclampsia symptoms in pregnant women” Newstrackindia.com