Discovery of Proteins Associated with Hypertensive Disorders in Pregnancy

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New study uncovered multiple proteins that exhibit strong indications of either causing or protecting against preeclampsia and hypertensive pregnancy disorders. This discovery could offer insights into the origins of these conditions and potential avenues for prevention or treatment.

Preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy—which are characterized by high blood pressure with or without organ dysfunction during the second half of pregnancy—carry considerable short- and long-term risks for both the mother and child. Treatment options (other than expedited delivery) remain limited.

Genetic Influence on Protein Levels and Risk of Hypertensive Pregnancy Disorders

In the study, which is published in JAMA Cardiology and involved genetic data from more than 600,000 individuals, the investigators tested whether a genetic predisposition to higher or lower levels of different proteins in the bloodstream influenced a woman’s risk of developing hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.


The scientists identified six proteins involved in cardiovascular and inflammatory processes that likely contribute to or protect against these conditions. These included CD40, cystatin B, eosinophil cationic protein, galectin-3, heat shock protein 27, and N-terminal pro-B type natriuretic peptide.

“These findings provide new insights into the biology of the hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, suggesting different pathways—such as blood vessel regulation, inflammation, and immunity—involved in the development of these diseases,” says senior author Michael C. Honigberg, MD, MPP, a cardiologist and researcher at MGH and an assistant professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Some of the proteins could serve as potential therapeutic targets and should be investigated further in animal models and ultimately, if promising, in human trials.”


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