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Predicting, Maybe Curing, Pre-eclampsia?

Posted by MDViews on January 5, 2005

The Holy Grail of obstetrics, the superbowl ring of birthing, the praise and respect of physicians everywhere goes to the one who discovers the cause of pre-eclampsia, even more so for the penultimate pinnacle of pregnancy phamacons–the cure.

Pre-eclampsia*, that scourge thoughout the centuries, now again in the news here. AP reports on a study released in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Assn–a good publication) that outlines a new test that may predict the disease. They contend there is large protein, sFlt1, that binds other proteins causing the endothelium (cells on the inner walls of blood vessels) to malfunction, leading to the disease. The researchers from all over, really, (a multi-center trial) measured the protein placental growth factor (PlGF) which reflected this biochemical change about five weeks before the disease actually appeared.

A step forward, for sure.

I’ve been told that there is an empty pedestal at the University of Chicago awaiting the bust of the one who discovers the cause of this dread pregnancy-only disease.

The problem with this disease, like so many, is that there is not one event, one moment where research breaks out of the cave of darkness and ignorance into the light of knowledge and cure. It’s more like climbing a mountain in a fog. You’re going up slowly, painfully, but you aren’t sure you’re on the right path. And you may not recognize the summit even if you reach it. Thus it seems to be with this disease as bits and pieces are added to the world wide knowlege of it.

How important is this information? Who knows? Time will tell. There have been many other moments over the 27 years of my experience in OBGYN in which a flush of excitement and hope generated from pre-eclamsia research, only to be later disproven.

Psalm 139, “…fearfully and wonderfully made…” indeed.

*Pre-eclampsia–a disease during pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the unine which, if left untreated leads to maternal seizures and even death of mother and baby. Also known as “toxemia”.

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