Development of a bioassay to detect pre-eclampsia

Status: Complete
Year: 2017
Funded: $100,000
Grant Type: Major Project Grant

Pre-eclampsia, a hypertensive disorder, is a potentially life-threatening condition that develops in up to 8% of all pregnancies worldwide. Currently, the only option in severe cases is the early delivery of the baby. Symptoms usually subside for the mother within days of giving birth, but early delivery comes at the expense of the health, or even life, of the child.

Earlier intervention strategies would allow prolongment of the pregnancy, improving health outcomes for the mother and baby. Pre-eclampsia can be difficult to diagnose before the sudden onset of dangerous symptoms, such as high blood pressure. Compared to healthy pregnant women, women with pre-eclampsia have been shown to have a higher proportion of a particular form of the protein angiotensinogen that is involved in regulating blood pressure. Development of a bioassay that can differentiate between the different forms of this protein could allow for the early diagnosis of pre-eclampsia.

The proposed research aims to thoroughly characterise the two forms of angiotensinogen, towards identifying any biophysical differences between them that may show potential to be utilised in the development of a bioassay.

Researcher // Ms Jennifer Crowther – University of Canterbury

Jennifer Crowther is Postdoctoral Fellow in Biochemistry at the University of Canterbury.


What Causes Preeclampsia?

The exact causes of preeclampsia and eclampsia — a result of a placenta that doesn’t function properly — are not known, although some researchers suspect poor nutrition or high body fat can be potential contributors. Insufficient bloodflow to the uterus could be associated, while genetics may also play a role. This uncertainty is why research into understanding preeclampsia is vital.

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Preeclampsia affects up to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide.
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Preeclampsia causes 15% of all premature births.
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Preeclampsia accounts for approximately 63,000 maternal deaths annually worldwide.
Preeclampsia is the number one reason doctors decide to deliver a baby prematurely.

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