A recent study from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine showed that the hormone adrenomedullin plays a critical role in preventing pre-eclampsia, a condition that can occur after the 20th week of pregnancy.
One surprising aspect of the study is researchers found that adrenomedullin seems to protect women from pre-eclampsia when emitted by the fetus, not by the mother. "If the baby's cells are not secreting this hormone, the mother's blood vessels don't undergo the dilation that they should," says the study's senior author, Kathleen M. Caron, assistant dean for research at the UNC School of Medicine and an associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology.
Pre-eclampsia is a condition in which blood vessels in the placenta fail to dilate
to accommodate increased blood flow to the fetus. It affects roughly one in 15 pregnancies and can threaten the lives of baby and mother if not treated.
The research, published in the June 2013 edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI), could lead to new methods for detecting and preventing pre-eclampsia by using adrenomedullin levels as an early indicator to identify which patients might be predisposed to developing pre-eclampsia. Learn more at jci.org (search for Adrenomedullin).
Katherine Kopp is a freelance writer and editor in Chapel Hill. She and her husband are the parents of three daughters.