Important Cause of Preeclampsia Discovered
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Despite being the subject of increasing interest for a whole century, how preeclampsia develops has been unclear - until now.

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Centre of Molecular Inflammation Research (CEMIR)believe that they have now found a primary cause of preeclampsia, which is cholesterol crystals.

Since, women who have had preeclampsia have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life, it was precisely this connection that led the researchers to choose to examine cholesterol in pregnant women with preeclampsia.

Cholesterol crystals are found in plaque that clogs blood vessels. The crystals are formed when bad cholesterol accumulates in the blood vessel walls. Studies have shown that cholesterol crystals are a particularly powerful initiator of inflammation in the body and can cause the blood to clot.

Cholesterol crystals are identified as harmful substances in the body that need to be cleared out. But the defence cells that come in to do the job aren't able to break them down. They call for reinforcements, and more immune cells come in, to no avail. The immune response runs wild, and the inflammatory process escalates.

Researchers found that the inflammation was at its highest in the region called the maternal-foetal interface, where the mother's cells come into direct contact with foetal cells. This happens in the placenta and uterine wall.

"This direct contact means that the inflammation directly affects the communication between mother and foetus and contributes to even greater inflammation in the mother," says researchers.

Cholesterol levels are high in all pregnant women, because both the foetus and the placenta need cholesterol. But levels were even higher in women with preeclampsia. They also had much more of the bad cholesterol, which is the type of cholesterol found in people who are at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

The findings are good news for the pregnant women who get this disease.

Researchers believes that future treatment will now become more effective. Hence, they suggested that, “Future treatment for preeclampsia may simply include cholesterol-lowering medications, such as statins, but further research is needed to clarify their effects.”