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Research could lead to a new test to predict risk of pregnancy complications

03 Sep 2013

Researchers from The University of Manchester and Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Trust have identified proteins in the blood that could be used to predict whether a woman in her first pregnancy is at increased risk of developing pre-eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia is a complication of pregnancy where the mother develops high blood pressure and protein is present in the urine. In some cases, this can develop into a serious condition for both mother and baby and the only cure is delivery of the baby, often prematurely.

Women who have had pre-eclampsia previously are at higher risk of recurrence and are closely monitored during pregnancy, but there is no way of determining who is at high risk in first-time mothers.

The researchers, led by Dr Richard Unwin and Dr Jenny Myers from the Manchester Biomedical Research Centre, a partnership between the Trust and the University analysed samples which had been collected as part of the international SCOPE study at 15 weeks of pregnancy - before any clinical signs of disease are present. Proteins were identified which differed between those women who developed pre-eclampsia and those who did not.

Three of these proteins were studied further in a larger number of pregnant mothers using a new method that allows the levels of several proteins to be measured at once. Two proteins, which have not previously been linked to pre-eclampsia risk, were shown to be at least as good a predictor of disease risk as the current best marker, placental growth factor,. These two new potential markers are called pregnancy specific glycoprotein 5 and 9 (PSG5 and PSG9).

The findings will have a significant impact for identifying the condition in first time pregnancies, researchers believe.

Dr Jenny Myers, from the Institute of Human Development at The University of Manchester and the Maternal and Fetal Heath Research Centre at Saint Mary’s Hospital, said: “We hope that these two new markers will be of benefit in the future for women at risk from pre-eclampsia to allow early intervention and/or closer monitoring.

“We also hope to understand the biology of the disease better by determining why these proteins are higher in women with pre-eclampsia and whether they have a role in the development of the placenta.”

Dr Unwin, from the Centre for Advanced Discovery and Experimental Therapeutics (CADET) at the Manchester Biomedical Research Centre, said: “What we have also done here is to develop a suite of laboratory methods which can identify and begin to validate real disease markers from patient blood samples, even before symptoms have developed, and we are hoping to continue applying these methods to other major diseases, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease or stroke.”

The research, published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, also involved members from Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MAHSC) a partnership between the University and six leading NHS Trusts which aim to help health care organisations reap the benefits of research and innovation to drive improvements in care.

ENDS

Notes for editors

Journal reference: Blankley RT, Fisher C, Westwood M, North R,  Baker PN, Walker MJ, Williamson AJ, Whetton AD, Lin W, McCowan L,  Roberts CT, Cooper GJS, Unwin RD* and Myers JE (2013) A label-free SRM workflow identifies a subset of pregnancy specific glycoproteins as novel putative predictive markers of early-onset pre-eclampsia. Molecular and Cellular Proteomics. In press.
For more information about the SCOPE study, click here.

For further information or to request an interview, please contact Alison Barbuti | Media Relations Officer | Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences |The University of Manchester | Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre (MAHSC) Tel. +44 (0)161 275 8383 | Mobile 07887 561 318 |Email: alison.barbuti@manchester.ac.uk

The University of Manchester

The University of Manchester, a member of the Russell Group, is one of the largest and most popular universities in the UK. It has 20 academic schools and hundreds of specialist research groups undertaking pioneering multi-disciplinary teaching and research of worldwide significance. According to the results of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, The University of Manchester is one of the country’s major research institutions, rated third in the UK in terms of ‘research power’. The University has an annual income of £807 million and is ranked 40th in the world and fifth in the UK for the quality of its teaching and impact of its research.

Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is a leading provider of specialist healthcare services in Manchester, treating more than a million patients every year. Its eight specialist hospitals (Manchester Royal Infirmary, Saint Mary’s Hospital, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, University Dental Hospital of Manchester and Trafford Hospitals) are home to hundreds of world class clinicians and academic staff committed to finding patients the best care and treatments. (www.cmft.nhs.uk)

The Centre for Advanced Discovery and Experimental Therapeutics opened in 2010 with investment from the National Institute for Health Research and the North West Regional Development Agency, and is part of the Manchester Biomedical Research Centre. The facility undertakes everything from fundamental medical research to clinical trials, particularly on diseases causing a major burden to the UK population. CADET is the first UK single-site facility combining cutting-edge proteomics and metabolomics technologies with state-of-the-art computational analysis and a tissue biobank.
www.cadetmanchester.org