Potential Breakthrough in Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension

Houston researchers have new information about what may cause pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, or preeclampsia. Doctors at the University of Texas Medical School now believe the condition may be an auto-immune disease. Laurie Johnson has more.
An autoimmune disease is one in which the body attacks itself. Lupus and multiple sclerosis are the most well-known. And preeclampsia may be added to that list.

The most common symptom of preeclampsia is high blood pressure. It usually occurs in the final trimester and can be fatal for both mother and child.

Dr. Yang Xia is an assistant professor at UT Medical School. She says research indicates some women have a certain antibody that causes the condition. When that antibody is blocked, the symptoms could be prevented.

"Most of the time it's too late to treat the patient because the symptom has already occurred. So if we can do early diagnosis, for example through pre-screening, so we can potentially prevent that happening and diagnose earlier."

There is no current treatment for preeclampsia, other than delivery. In fact, the condition is responsible for 15 percent of premature births.

The research was published this week in Nature Medicine.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...