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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs