NCSU Logo The gene SIAE generally associated with the regulation of the body’s immune system may be involved in preeclampsia. Known to occur in almost 10 percent pregnancies, preeclampsia supposedly is the cause of 15 percent pre-term births. Investigators from the North Carolina State University assert that the placentas of women suffering from preeclampsia during pregnancy have an overabundance of the SIAE gene. The research findings can probably open doors to enhanced screening and prenatal care for such patients and their babies.

While conducting the investigation, researchers thoroughly evaluated the genetic makeup of placentas from women with preeclampsia. The achieved results were then compared with placentas from normal pregnancies. A number of genes seemingly correlated with a particular autoimmune pathway were ‘upregulated.’

“Prior to this research, we knew that there was an autoimmune cascade effect with preeclampsia, but we didn’t know where it originated,” remarked Dr. Jorge Piedrahita, professor of genomics. “Now we know that disregulation of SIAE helps start the cascade. We’ve been able to fill in the blanks, and hopefully pregnant women and their babies will benefit as a result.”

Genes appeared more in placentas of preeclampsic women than normal placentas. The upregulation of the enzyme SIAE which is apparently involved in sialic acid modification was registered. Experts believe that this gene is also associated with autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and type I diabetes.

The research is published in the February issue of the journal Placenta.