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New Research Finds Potentially Groundbreaking Preeclampsia Treatment

Researchers have developed an innovative mRNA therapy that targets the root cause of preeclampsia. The breakthrough treatment could improve health outcomes for the up to 8 percent of mothers affected worldwide.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Updated March 2, 2023
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Image: bbernard | Shutterstock

New research could provide peace of mind and targeted treatment for pregnant people dealing with preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a condition that affects between 3 to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide and can, in severe cases, lead to premature birth or, in very rare cases, even be fatal for baby. It’s caused by high maternal blood pressure and restricted blood flow from mom to baby.

Currently, healthcare professionals manage the symptoms of preeclampsia through diet and movement changes, monitoring blood pressure and sometimes early delivery of baby. But these treatments do not address the root cause of the condition.

However, Penn engineers have made a breakthrough in reproductive health care by developing targeted RNA therapy to treat preeclampsia. According to a new study published in the Journal of The American Chemical Society, scientists have successfully used lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) to deliver mRNA to placental cells to create vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). This protein creation helps expand the blood vessels in the placenta to reduce maternal blood pressure and restore adequate circulation to the fetus.

In mice trials, this targeted therapy has been successful, and it may lead to promising treatments for preeclampsia in humans. The treatment would be administered intravenously, meaning pregnant women could receive it via a simple, non-invasive, and pain-free IV drip.

This breakthrough provides hope for pregnant people dealing with preeclampsia and represents a burgeoning inclusion of pregnancy in important medical studies. Pregnant people and their babies are often excluded in clinical trials to protect their health. But this also leaves many uncertain about how to actually best safeguard their health. This new approach to LNP development of mRNA therapies is opening doors for hard-to-treat diseases, and it’s exciting to see where this work is headed.

This study also offers a reminder that it’s essential to communicate with your doctor about any preeclampsia risk factors or symptoms early on in your pregnancy. While this treatment is still developing and not available to the public yet, flag any concerns or questions you may have with your doctor to ensure the best possible care for you and baby.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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