News / Health

Pregnancy Disorder Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease Protein

Jessica Berman

Researchers have identified a potential cause of a pregnancy disorder called preeclampsia, which is a leading cause of mother and newborn mortality around the world.  An international team of scientists has linked the condition to a protein that’s been implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

An estimated 75,000 women in the industrialized world die each year as a result of preeclampsia, a poorly understood pregnancy complication.  Many more women and babies die in the developing world, where the condition is difficult to spot in women who are not getting routine prenatal care.

That is because the initial symptoms can be subtle, a silent rise in blood pressure being the most common.  Untreated, the condition can lead to seizures, stroke, liver failure and death of both mother and child.  To treat preeclampsia, doctors will deliver the babies early.

Researchers have identified a potential cause - misfolded proteins, including amyloid precursor protein and beta-amyloid - which are also found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.  

Investigators, led by Center for Perinatal Research Director Irina Buhimschi of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus Ohio, discovered the malformed proteins clogging the placentas, or birth sacs, of women who developed preeclampsia.

“A lot of proteins need to be placed in different places," she said. "There are many proteins that are made de novo - by the placenta, by the baby that need to be excreted.   So the organism of the mother has an extra load to take care of."

Buhimschi says preeclampsia usually strikes women during their first pregnancy, possibly because their bodies have not adapted to carrying a child.

She says if they are abnormal, the misfolded proteins cannot travel easily between mother and child and they back up in the placenta.

Buhimschi and colleagues got the idea to use a dye called Congo Red to look for the presence of the proteins in the urine of pregnant women.  The dye binds to abnormal protein material and was used for many years to detect amyloid plaques in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients.

“If we think these women spill these misfolded proteins in urine, can we test the dye, which otherwise has never been used with the urine of women with preeclampsia, to see if those proteins also bind [to] Congo Red?  So we found that, yes, we could use it and transform it pretty much to [a] diagnostic test," she said.

Buhimshi says the Congo Red Dot urine test is highly accurate in detecting preeclampsia.  It is being tested in a number of countries, including South Africa and India.   

Researchers report their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine. 

You May Like

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down nearly three percent, while US market indexes were off around two percent in early trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs