A recent study conducted by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital have provided an insight into the causes of miscarriages for some women and treatment solutions. According to reports, the findings of the new study have identified how natural killer cells commonly found in the placenta can inhibit the growth of a fetus in the womb or cause miscarriages. The study was conducted in mice.
It is reported by Science Daily that the researchers involved in the new study were also able to identify a number of possible treatments and preventive solutions. The report also stated that the study was led by a scientist in the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science of St. Michael’s Hospital Dr. Heyu Ni.
This is in collaboration with other basic scientists whose goal is to prevent and minimize the suffering women experience from a disease called Fetal and neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia (FNAIT) resulting from miscarriages or giving birth to underdeveloped babies.
It is reported by Medical Express that FNAIT is a condition that affects pregnant women and their unborn babies when the immune system of the mother sees some of her unborn child’s cells as foreign. In this condition, the mother’s immune system sends out antibodies to attack and destroy those cells.
Interestingly, the study authors found that the mother’s FNAIT immune response in mice also cause the activation of antibodies that target cells with the father’s proteins such as trophoblasts, which is responsible for placental growth and development. The researchers stated that the antibody attack by the immune system could lead to the deformation of the placenta.
It could also cause a disruption in the flow of nutrients from the mother to the unborn child. It is reported that this may inhibit the growth of the fetus in the womb as well as increasing the possibility of miscarriage.
“Natural killer cells are normal in pregnancy and necessary for early placental development in humans and other mammals, but their number in placenta should decrease in the late stage of pregnancy. In our study, we found that natural killer cells were not decreased, but prevalent and active in cases of FNAIT,” Dr. Ni said.
The study authors believe that one in every 1,000 live births is affected by FNAIT and up to 3 percent of the population is at risk for the condition. It is reported that about 30 percent of affected pregnancies lead to miscarriage. However, the researchers noted based on their findings that FNAIT-related miscarriages could be prevented by targeting the natural killer cells.
They added that medical practitioners could use intravenous immunoglobulin G (IVIG) to block the sensors of natural killer cells, thereby preventing them from targeting placental cells, as IVIG decreases maternal anti-fetal antibodies. The researchers also recommend other treatment solutions including targeting cell receptors in order to block the activation of the natural killer cells.
They believe that the new treatment solutions decrease the risk of miscarriage and inability of a fetus to grow in mice with FNAIT but they have not been approved for clinical use in human FNAIT. The authors published their findings online in the journal Nature Communications.