Pre-eclampsia 'breakthrough' on protein link to Type 1 diabetes
Researchers have made a "significant" breakthrough in helping predict a potentially fatal condition in pregnant women.
They have found that a protein called FABP4 (fatty acid binding protein 4) could be a characteristic of pre-eclampsia in women with Type 1 diabetes.
Dr Valerie Holmes, from the Centre for Public Health at Queen's University Belfast, 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."
The discovery was made by experts from Queen's University Belfast and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
Dr Holmes added: "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."
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, it can lead to pre-term birth.
All women have their blood pressure and urine checked throughout pregnancy and groups who are known to be at risk are monitored closely.
At present there is no effective screening programme to predict who will develop pre-eclampsia.
The study 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 first and second trimesters.
Those who later developed pre-eclampsia had significantly higher levels of FABP4 in early pregnancy and in the second trimester.
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 Type1 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 was funded by The Wellcome Trust and Department of Employment and Learning.