New research, in which pregnant mice injected with antibodies from pregnant women with preeclampsia in turn exhibit key features of the condition, suggests that preeclampsia may be a pregnancy-induced autoimmune disease (Zhou CC et al. Nat Med. 2008;14:855-862).
Currently, there is no effective treatment for preeclampsia, in part because of the lack of a complete understanding of the disease.
Some studies have shown that women with preeclampsia have autoantibodies that activate a receptor called angiotensin II type 1a (AT1 receptor), which is involved with blood pressure regulation. In the current work, led by investigators at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, pregnant mice injected with these antibodies exhibited such hallmarks of preeclampsia as hypertension, proteinuria, glomerular endotheliosis, placental abnormalities, and small fetus size. These features were prevented when the mice also were injected with losartan, an AT1 receptor antagonist.