Genetic Study Shows Risk of Preeclampsia is Related to Blood Pressure and BMI

Priscilla Lynch 

December 03, 2020

The genetic risk of pre-eclampsia is related to blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), suggests a large-scale meta-analysis of maternal pre-eclampsia coupled with the findings of an international pregnancy genetics study coordinated by UK researchers.

In the InterPregGen study, researchers studied how maternal genetic variation influences the risk of pre-eclampsia. The team studied the genome-wide association scans of 9515 pre-eclamptic women and 157,719 control individuals.

The results, published in  Nature Communications,  pinpointed DNA variants in the ZNF831 and FTO genes as risk factors for pre-eclampsia. These genes have previously been associated with blood pressure, and the FTO variant also with BMI. Further analysis revealed other blood pressure-related variants in the MECOM, FGF5 and SH2B3 genes also associating with pre-eclampsia. These variants increase the risk of pre-eclampsia by 10-15 per cent.

The study also shows that overall genetic predisposition to hypertension is a major risk factor for pre-eclampsia and thus a large number of variants each with a small effect may also contribute to the risk. These current results complement the earlier findings of the same researchers, who showed that a variant near FLT1 gene in the foetal genome affects mothers’ risk of developing pre-eclampsia.

The genes identified so far correlate with other current knowledge of pre-eclampsia as hypertension and obesity are known maternal risk factors.

While this study shows that these associations are partly explained by inherited predispositions, whether the remaining unidentified pre-eclampsia factors act through the maternal or foetal genome, or both, remains to be seen.

Study co-author Prof Fiona Broughton Pipkin, University of Nottingham, said: “The new insights from this study could form the basis for more effective prevention and treatment of pre-eclampsia in the future, and improve the outcome of pregnancy for mother and child. They could also encourage GPs to follow-up more closely women who have had pre-eclampsia.”

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This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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