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Silencing for Preeclampsia

A study in baboons suggests RNA silencing could help treat preeclampsia, New Scientist reports.

Preeclampsia, or high-blood pressure during pregnancy, occurs in between 3 percent and 7 percent of pregnancies, according to the US National Library of Medicine, and can lead to serious side effects like seizure, stroke, and, in rare cases, death.

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School — including Melissa Moore, who tells New Scientist she experienced the condition, calling it "very scary" — developed short interfering RNAs that targeted three sFLT1 mRNA isoforms. sFLT1 is a placental protein whose expression is ramped up in preeclampsia. As they report in Nature Biotechnology, the researchers found that these siRNAs reduced sFLT1 expression in both mouse and baboon models of preeclampsia. New Scientist notes that the three treated baboons gave birth to healthy offspring, though the infants were a little smaller than average.

The researchers note in their paper that, as dry siRNAs can be stored at room temperature for a long time and are straightforward to manufacture and deliver, they could present a possible treatment for preeclampsia in the developing world, where it contributes to maternal mortality.

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