Research into the prevention of serious blood clots during pregnancy

June 29, 2017

Researchers are working to prevent to risk of blood clots in pregnancy.

Researchers are moving closer to reducing the risk of blood clots, a leading cause of miscarriage in pregnant women.

Potentially life threatening, blood clots can affect anyone of any age and level of health and fitness, at any time.

A project underway at Murdoch University aims to understand how abnormal blood clots form during pregnancy and how to accurately predict those at risk of suffering from a blood clot.

Dr Jasmine Tay is leading the project, based at the WA Centre for Thrombosis and Haemostasis (WACTH) at Murdoch University, which aims to pinpoint women at high risk, particularly during pregnancy.

“Thrombosis is a blood clot that stops blood flow through a blood vessel. It is typically found in the lower leg (deep vein thrombosis). If part of the clot breaks away it can cause serious health issues such as stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism,” Dr Tay said.

“This can be potentially life threatening and is the second leading cause of maternal death during pregnancy. A higher propensity for thrombosis (thrombophilia) can also be an underlying cause for subfertility and miscarriage.”

She said identification of a biomarker had proved the key to pinpointing women most at risk.

“Oestrogen levels in pregnant women can amplify up to 20 times during the second and third trimesters to support foetal development and to prepare the body for birth,” Dr Tay said.

“This rise is connected to a corresponding rise in clotting factor levels and a fall in anticoagulant levels — as a mechanism to protect from bleeding at birth. However, we still do not know exactly how these things are connected.”

Dr Tay said all cells in the body produced microRNAs that acted to inhibit the production of target proteins: “Our research has found high oestrogen concentrations similar to levels found in pregnant women can cause changes to microRNA levels that have been found to inhibit the production of an important, powerful anti-clotting factor called Protein S.

“Building on these results, we want to investigate the connection between microRNA levels and Protein S in non-pregnant and pregnant women.

“This will hopefully show us if changes to specific levels of microRNA are associated with Protein S deficiency during periods when oestrogen levels are high.”

Director of WACTH Professor Ross Baker said the project was yielding some very promising results.

“Dr Tay’s research will form the basis for building exciting new diagnostic tests and novel treatments for those who are susceptible to oestrogen associated diseases such as deep vein thrombosis and stroke.”

The team are gathering data from pregnant women and women who are taking the contraceptive pill to follow the effect of rising oestrogen levels and are hoping to expand the study.

“We would love to hear from women who are about to undergo in vitro fertilization treatment and also women who have suffered from thrombotic episodes who are hoping to fall pregnant,” Dr Tay said.

To register for the study contact Dr Tay on info@wacth.org. More information can be found here.

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Media contact: Pepita Smyth
Tel: (08) 9360 1289  |  Mobile: 0417 171 551  |  Email: p.smyth@murdoch.edu.au
Categories: General, Research, Schools, School of Veterinary and Life Sciences Research
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