Treating white blood cells with hormones may prove an effective therapy for pre-eclampsia, according to laboratory research unveiled by British researchers.
The researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, say their studies suggest the treatment might improve the development of the placenta.
They have identified neutrophils as playing a key role in pre-eclampsia, finding that in pre-eclampia they do not interact with T-cells.
In healthy pregnancies there was interaction - and the researchers say this may be important for placental development.
The findings were unveiled in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers followed their discovery by treating neutrophils from pregnant women - in the laboratory - with progesterone and estriol and found this triggered normal interaction with T cells.
The discovery was then tested on pregnant mice - suggest the treatment could return placental development to normal.
Researcher Dr Suchita Nadkarni said: “Although we’re a long way off and need to confirm these results in a much larger cohort of patients, this could eventually form part of therapy for pregnancy complications.
"If we could replicate in humans what we’ve done in mice, and re-introduce the treated neutrophils back into their blood, we may see normal placental development in pregnant women diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.
“In the meantime, however, these results give us a much better insight into how the maternal immune system works during pregnancy, and why in some cases it might not work and lead to complications.”
Dr Shannon Amoils, from the British Heart Foundation, which has backed the research, said the findings were "promising."
Dr Amoils said it "increases our understanding of the condition but further work is needed to investigate whether these immune cells could form the basis of a treatment for pre-eclampsia and other pregnancy related conditions.”
Source: Neutrophils induce pro-angiogenic T cells with a regulatory phenotype in pregnancy PNAS 12 December 2016; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1611944114
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