In a significant breakthrough, a new and effective treatment for pre-eclampsia in pregnant women has been discovered by Australian scientists. Pre-eclampsia is a condition that kills 60,000 pregnant women globally each year and strikes 15,000 pregnant women in Australia online – causing premature birth or death.
According to The Age newspaper, Metformin, a cheap drug already used to treat diabetes has been found to block the release of toxins from the placenta when pre-eclampsia is diagnosed.
A team of Melbourne researchers, found that the drug was also beneficial to women with the condition as it assists with healing blood vessels. Pre-eclampsia is known to cause long-term damage to blood vessels.
The research team from the Translational Obstetrics Group at Mercy Hospital for Women and the University of Melbourne are now hoping to experiment with Metformin for use as a preventative measure of the condition and within an active treatment plan for pregnant women. If funding for more research is secured, the trials could start as early as next year.
Dr Fiona Brownfoot, lead author of the study being published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology today, told The Age it was an exciting finding because Metformin has already been deemed safe for pregnant women and their babies due to its use for diabetes.
“It’s very cheap and it’s a tablet so you don’t need a fridge to store it, which means it could be the perfect drug for the third world,” she said.
There are currently no drugs available to treat pre-eclampsia, which affects 38 per cent of pregnant women for 20 weeks gestation. Professor Stephen Tong explained to The Age that “the condition involves destructive molecules being released from the placenta into the mother’s bloodstream which damage blood vessels. This causes high blood pressure and damage to vital organs including the liver, kidneys, brain, lungs and blood clotting system. In severe cases, it can cause seizures and death.”
Metformin has become a focus for researchers in recent years because it is believed to prevent the spread of some cancers and increase life span.