Advance at Queen's into pregnancy disorder
Researchers in Belfast 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 in 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 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.
Those who later developed pre-eclampsia had significantly higher levels of FABP4 in early pregnancy and in the second trimester.