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Predictor of pre-eclampsia discovered by Queen’s University researchers

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust have made a breakthrough which may be able to predict pre-eclampsia in pregnant women with type 1 diabetes.

Research breakthrough may help help predict pre-eclampsia

The Belfast Researchers discovered that a protein called FABP4 (fatty acid binding protein 4) predicts pre-eclampsia in women with type 1 diabetes, and may be a potential biomarker for pre-eclampsia prediction in pregnant women.

What is pre-eclampsia?

Pre-eclampsia is a condition in pregnancy characterised by high blood pressure and protein in the urine and can lead to serious complications for the mother.

As the only treatment is delivery of the baby, pre-eclampsia can lead to pre-term birth. All women have their blood pressure and urine checked throughout pregnancy and while certain groups who are known to be at risk are monitored closely, to date there is no effective screening programme to predict which women will develop pre-eclampsia.

FABP4 protein and pre-eclampsia

The study, which was funded by The Wellcome Trust and the Department of Employment and Learning, measured FABP4 in the blood of 710 women with type 1 diabetes at two time-points in pregnancy, around 14 weeks gestation and around 26 weeks gestation, aligning with the end of the 1st and 2nd trimesters. Those women who later developed pre-eclampsia had significantly higher levels of FABP4 in early pregnancy and in the 2nd trimester.

Speaking about the findings, Dr Valerie Holmes from the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s, said: “This is a really significant breakthrough as it is the first time scientists have shown an association between FABP4 and risk of pre-eclampsia in women with type 1 diabetes. This study builds on previous work by this group where the authors identified other blood markers or biomarkers for the prediction of pre-eclampsia.

"This work is an important step in the development of a screening test for pre-eclampsia. It is further evidence of how research at Queen’s University Belfast is having real impact, advancing knowledge and changing lives."

Better prediction

Lead investigator, Professor David McCance from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, said: “These results add significantly to our knowledge of how we might better predict pre-eclampsia in women with type 1 diabetes during pregnancy” This discovery is another important step in this journey and shows how collaborative research in Northern Ireland is addressing some of the biggest challenges in the world today.”

The research findings are due to be published in Diabetes Care on Wednesday 14 September 2016.

Dr Valerie Holmes
Centre for Public Health
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Media inquiries to Claire Kelly, Communications Manager Queen’s University Belfast, or 028 9097 5391.