Blood proteins may potentially forewarn of pregnancy complications

January 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

No pregnant woman gets excited about invasive procedures. But, for the diagnosis of some complications, pregnant women have to undergo procedures such as amniocentesis. Researchers have been aiming to come up with less invasive tests. In a paper in this month’s issue of Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, scientists describe how a class of proteins can be reliably tracked in blood samples taken from pregnant women and found hints that changes in expression patterns of this class of proteins may indicate if a pregnant woman is at risk for premature delivery.

The class of proteins that Danielle Ippolito and colleagues at the Madigan Army Medical Center studied were apolipoproteins. “Apolipoproteins are lipid-transport proteins in plasma” which, along with lipids and cholesterols, increase exponentially in pregnancy to support fetal development, explains Ippolito. Apolipoproteins exist stably in the blood plasma, suggesting they can be reliable indicators of different biological processes.

Ippolito says she, her colleagues and other researchers had found earlier that maternal plasma had different concentrations of apolipoprotein subtypes, depending on whether or not the women developed preemclampsia. Based on that finding, the investigators reasoned that, if they could track these various subtypes, they would be able to find proteins that signaled early on whether or not a pregnancy was going to be complicated.

To see if their hypothesis bore out, the investigators analyzed by mass spectrometry the plasma collected from women at different time points of their pregnancies. They found that modified subtypes of an apolipoprotein called Apo A-II were significantly higher in plasma from mothers who delivered preterm babies than those who didn’t.

Ippolito says that, as the next step, her team intends “to analyze plasma from patients with different obstetric outcomes to compare apolipoprotein profile in patients who deliver without complications versus women who develop gestational diabetes, severe preeclampsia and preterm premature rupture of the membranes leading to premature birth.”

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