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April 06, 2017

Says Petty, "Modification of signaling along this pathway allows the pregnant woman to maintain an immune response, but at a level that will not harm the fetus."

The study included 21 women in their third trimester of a normal pregnancy, 25 women with pre-eclampsia, and a control group of non-pregnant women. Petty and colleagues used a variety of methods to confirm their findings, including fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry, which are used to study cell signaling.

The higher levels of the enzyme seen in women with pre-eclampsia bolster the study's findings, says Petty.

"Pre-eclampsia has features of inflammatory disease. If you don't reduce these pyruvate levels, you heighten inflammatory disease," he adds. Petty wonders whether one day enzyme levels could be tested early in pregnancy to predict the likelihood of developing pre-eclampsia or other complications.

It is possible, says Petty, that the general mechanisms described in the current study may apply to more than one complication of pregnancy. This possibility-and that of designing drugs to suppress pyruvate kinase activity-is the focus of future research. "I have a long list of things I'd like to see developed for the clinic in the next five years," adds Petty.

Source: University of Michigan Health System