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Studies Look at Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Treating Preeclampsia

Jul 14, 2020 10:06:00 AM / by Stacy Matthews Branch, DVM, PhD

Beautiful pregnant woman sitting on bed at home_AdobeStock_163232953-1Recent studies suggest that mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) of the maternal decidua may prove to be an effective treatment for patients suffering from preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia is one of the most common causes of maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality, affecting as high as 8% of pregnant women worldwide. It is a severe cardiovascular disorder that develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy and is characterized by a sudden onset of hypertension, swelling of the limbs and face, proteinuria, and adverse effects on various organs, including the kidneys and liver. If left untreated, maternal organ damage can occur, and the fetus can be deprived of sufficient blood flow and oxygen. Eclampsia (seizures) and HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count) may also ensue. 

Pregnancy complications due to preeclampsia are usually addressed by the delivery of the baby even though this may mean premature birth. However, there is still a risk of long-term health consequences for the mother and baby. A full picture of the pathogenic factors associated with preeclampsia development is not fully elucidated, but oxidative stress and inflammation are thought to be involved in the pathology.

Studies have revealed that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) of the maternal decidua may regulate immunomodulation, angiogenesis, and anti-inflammatory processes within the maternal-fetal interface during placental development. It is known that there is an abnormal production of cytokines in the MSCs of the decidua of patients with preeclampsia. Given the characteristics and functions of MSCs during pregnancy, their use in treating cardiovascular disease, and promising results of MSC-treatment in animal models, MSCs may represent a viable means to treat preeclampsia. 

In animal models of preeclampsia, treatment with MSCs leads to a decrease in inflammatory cells, cytokines, and endothelial adhesion molecules. Other research results show that MSCs administered in vivo undergo apoptosis and subsequently promote anti-inflammatory effects. MSCs can also have anti-oxidant effects in part by enhancing normal mitochondrial function. Despite the promising pre-clinical data available, more studies are needed to determine the maternal and fetal safety of MSCs for the treatment of preeclampsia. Gaining a better understanding of the pathogenesis of preeclampsia and the role of MSCs during placental development can help answer the questions needed to develop their use as a treatment for preeclampsia. 

HemaCare supplies medical scientists with high-quality stem cells to advance cell-therapy research. 


Emily Henderson, B. (2020). Review investigates stem cell therapy as potential new treatment for preeclampsia. Retrieved 22 May 2020, from

Topics: Cell Therapy, Stem Cells

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