Could A Diabetes Drug Cure Preeclampsia?
A new Australian study reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has suggested Metformin, a drug used to treat diabetes, could be used to prevent or treat preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that is life threatening for both mothers and babies. Preeclampsia affects approximately 1 in 20 pregnancies and causes the death of over 60,000 women globally every year. There’s currently no medical treatment or cure for the condition.
Preeclampsia usually occurs after 20 weeks of gestation and is a condition unique to pregnancy. The exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, although research indicates there is possibly a genetic factor involved.
The condition arises when insufficient blood supply to the placenta causes it to release toxins into the mother’s bloodstream. The condition is progressive, and leads to high blood pressure and potential damage to the brain, liver, kidneys and other organs. In severe cases of preeclampsia women can suffer seizures and fits. Symptoms of preeclampsia can continue after the birth, until the condition is eventually resolved.
Women with preeclampsia require hospitalisation and careful monitoring. Timing is critical, as the only effective treatment for the condition is the birth of the baby. The decision to induce or prepare for an emergency c-section might have to be made very quickly, depending on the condition of both mother and baby.
As a result of compromised placental blood supply, babies can experience oxygen deprivation and growth restriction. The main concern, however, is prematurity. If the condition becomes too dangerous for the mother, then the baby must be born. Babies who are born prematurely are at increased risk of a number of complications, and even death.
Metformin Can Block The Release Of Toxins
Researchers from Melbourne’s Mercy Hospital for Women have found in lab trials that Metformin blocks the release of the toxins from the placenta, and heals the damage done to the maternal blood vessels. The medication also improves dilation of the blood vessels, which in turn reduces blood pressure.
Metformin is currently used to help control blood sugar levels in people who have Type 2 Diabetes. It is a Category B medication, which means it has been found safe for use during pregnancy.
The medication is also inexpensive and does not require special conditions; this increases the viability of using it in low income countries, where the majority of deaths from preeclampsia occurs.
The Editor-in-Chief for Obstetrics of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Roberto Romero, says further research and trials should be undertaken as a matter of urgency, to determine whether Metformin is an effective treatment for preeclampsia, and possibly for other pregnancy complications.
Recommended Reading: Preeclampsia and Symptoms of Preeclampsia.