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An At-Home Preeclampsia Test Is Being Developed

Dr. Kara Rood speaks with a pregnant woman during a prenatal visit.

A new test to easily diagnose preeclampsia earlier in pregnancy is being developed by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Preeclampsia is a potentially life-threatening condition that affects about one in 20. Both mom and baby are at risk and because the symptoms of the condition mirror regular normal pregnancy symptoms like swelling and headaches, it is pretty hard to diagnose. Often times, it isn’t caught until much later in a woman’s pregnancy.

The newly developed test uses a special red dye that reacts to unique proteins in the urine of pregnant women with preeclampsia.

This means, a mom-to-be can quickly and easily diagnosed for the condition during a prenatal visit.

“Without the certainty of this test, providers tend to be overcautious because this is definitely a condition that we can’t allow to go untreated,” said Dr. Kara Rood , lead author of the study and maternal-fetal medicine physician at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “This test helps us to quickly provide care to women with preeclampsia, while avoiding unnecessary admissions or even early deliveries.”


Researchers expect the new rapid test to be FDA approved in the next few years so that OB/GYNs nationwide can use it to identify cases of preeclampsia.

“Giving birth is the only cure for preeclampsia, but it can develop as early as the second trimester,” Rood added. “The quicker we identify women with the condition, the better chance they have of carrying their babies to full term and having a healthy delivery.”

Dr. Rood hopes it will also be available at home for monitoring pregnancy complications more conveniently.

Study: Placenta cells may curb Preeclampsia Stroke risk

Researchers are conducting tests to see if cells from baby’s placenta can be used to treat preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy complication.
Preeclampsia is one of the leading killers of pregnant women in the U.S. and around the world, and occurs in 3-5% of pregnancies in the U.S. In severe cases the disease can cause strokes, seizures, and even the death of a pregnant woman or her baby. 
The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery. The disease can start in mid- pregnancy so a very early delivery may be needed to save the life of the mother. Preterm delivery can negatively impact an infant’s health across her lifespan. Preeclampsia is actually responsible for 12% of preterm births in the U.S.
Until recently it was thought that preeclampsia had no long term effects on a woman’s health after she delivered. This February, however, the American Heart Association & American Stroke Association announced that women who had a history of preeclampsia had twice the risk of stroke and four times the risk of developing high blood pressure even decades after their pregnancies. 
Right now there are no cures and scientists do not completely understand the causes of preeclampsia, although abnormal development and function of the placenta are thought to play a central role.  
Doctors can sometimes treat symptoms but no treatments stop the progress of the disease. There are few ongoing clinical trials to evaluate potential treatments. Novartis and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development each have an ongoing study.
A new trial is being designed by Pluristem Therapeutics to test a placenta-based cell therapy for treatment of preeclampsia. Pluristem takes cells from the placenta, which is generally discarded after birth, and expands and modulates them in 3 dimensional bioreactors. The therapeutic cells produced in their manufacturing facility are injected into muscle where they secrete proteins which could potentially treat preeclampsia. The first human trial of this treatment is expected to begin towards the end of the year. 
The US Preventive Services Task Force and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend giving low dose aspirin to pregnant women with specific high risk factors for developing preeclampsia because it reduces their chance of developing the disease by 24%.
 Many women who develop preeclampsia have no identifiable risk factors, however, and with 75% of treated women still developing the disease, preeclampsia remains a significant unmet medical need that needs to be addressed with research and development of therapies. A treatment, whether it be a drug or a cell therapy, would have a significant impact on the health of pregnant women and their children worldwide. 
Karine Kleinhaus, MD, MPH, is Divisional VP, North-America at Pluristem Therapeutics. She has worked with multiple public and private biotechnology companies on both public and investor relations. Prior to that, she was an assistant professor in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. At NYU, Dr. Kleinhaus conducted medical research funded under a multi-year NIH grant. She published more than 25 papers in leading peer-reviewed journals such as the Annals of the New York Academy of Science, American Journal of Medical Genetics, and the American Journal of Epidemiology. Before that Dr. Kleinhaus practiced obstetrics and then completed two fellowships at Columbia University. 
Dr. Kleinhaus received her medical degree from Tel Aviv University, earned a Master of Public Health from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, and a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, from Princeton University.

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