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13-09-2010 | Cardiology | Article

Metabolites in early pregnancy linked to increased pre-eclampsia risk


Free abstract

MedWire News: Measuring women's plasma metabolite levels during early pregnancy may help to identify those at risk for developing pre-eclampsia, researchers report.

Louise Kenny from University College Cork in Ireland, and colleagues explain that currently pre-eclampsia is only detected late in pregnancy when symptoms arise. Yet, "to develop effective treatment and prevention strategies [for pre-eclampsia] - our ultimate goal - we need to be able to start treatment in early pregnancy," they write.

Co-author Phil Baker from The University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada commented: "In the next five years our aim is to develop a simple blood test that will be available to all pregnant women that will detect the risk for pre-eclampsia in early pregnancy."

To investigate the feasibility of such a test, the researchers measured plasma levels of 14 metabolites at 15 weeks gestation in 60 pregnant women from New Zealand who subsequently went on to develop pre-eclampsia, and in 60 control women matched for age (mean 30 years), ethnicity, and body mass index (BMI) who did not.

The metabolites tested were all known markers of pre-eclampsia, such as 5-hydroxytryptophan and decanoylcarnitine.

As reported in the journal Hypertension, after adjusting for factors such as smoking status and BMI, Kenny et al found that women with all 14 metabolites in their plasma were 36 times more likely to have developed pre-eclampsia (p<0.001).

The team also found a similar association among a group of 79 Australian women of more varied ethnicity and younger mean age (22 years), 39 of whom developed pre-eclampsia. In this group, the presence of all 14 metabolites was associated with 23 times the odds of pre-eclampsia (p<0.001).

Kenny et al suggest given their encouraging findings, a test based on the positive detection of all 14 metabolites "compares highly favorably with that of other proposed first trimester screening tests... such as placental protein 13 and pregnancy-associated plasma protein A."

The team is continuing to work on the technology in the hope of developing a single blood test for identifying the women at highest risk of pre-eclampsia.

They conclude: "It is expected that the detection rates of our model will increase significantly when combined with maternal characteristics."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Lauretta Ihonor

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