Pregnant women with lupus are more likely to suffer complications than those who don’t. Lupus Research Alliance Scientific Advisory Board members asked if testing the blood, of pregnant women with lupus, using advanced technologies could identify, early in pregnancy, lupus patients at high risk for complications.
n a new study, Dr. Pascual and colleagues compared 92 pregnant women with lupus to 43 pregnant women who didn’t have the disease. The researchers obtained blood samples from the women during and shortly after their pregnancies. To detect the earliest changes associated with pregnancy onset, the scientists also analyzed blood from patients undergoing assisted reproductive technology. The researchers evaluated the patients’ immune system by measuring the activity of different genes that help determine how strongly it responds to potential threats. For a subset of these study participants, the investigators also examined the types of cells that are producing the specific immune responses.
Early in pregnancy, the activity of key genes decreased in women who didn’t have lupus, probably increasing their tolerance to the developing baby. The researchers saw similar changes in women with lupus who had successful pregnancies. However, the immune system of women with lupus who went on to develop complications was not turned down. Their immune system might be more likely to attack the fetus or prevent its proper development. This inability to turn down the immune activity appears to be a risk factor for adverse pregnancy outcomes in lupus.
Testing for these changes in gene activity might pinpoint patients with lupus who are more likely to develop pregnancy complications and who needs careful monitoring and specific therapeutic intervention to improve the outcome.