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Preventing early pregnancy complications

May. 20, 2015, 8:00 AM

Infection during pregnancy – and the inflammatory response it generates – leads to pregnancy complications including early defects/loss and preterm birth. The bacterial toxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS, also known as endotoxin) – a toxic product of E. coli – has been identified as a major risk factor for pregnancy complications.

Bibhash C. Paria, Ph.D., and colleagues explored one of the body’s own mechanisms for detoxifying LPS: conversion of the toxin to a non-injurious substance by the enzyme alkaline phosphatase (AP). They reported April 24 in the journal PLOS ONE that the uterus produces AP at sites of embryo implantation and that AP dephosphorylates LPS at those sites. The investigators also demonstrated that supplementation of AP enzyme reduces LPS-induced pregnancy complications following embryo implantation.

The findings suggest that supplemental AP enzyme treatment may be an attractive therapeutic option for women who are at high risk of pregnancy complications due to endotoxin exposure. Since AP also acts on other bacterial toxins, it may have additional broader clinical applications.

This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grant HD044741.

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