A new study led by Queen’s University researcher Colin Funk provides indirect support for the use of low-dose aspirin therapy in preventing and treating pre-eclampsia – a pregnancy disorder that is often harmful to both mother and fetus.
This treatment strategy is controversial, since it has been associated with complications such as thrombosis (blood clotting) and problems with labour. However, the new study shows that “the rationale for low-dose aspirin therapy to prevent or delay pre-eclampsia without compromising reproductive function, or increasing the possibility of thrombosis, is definitely a feasible therapeutic strategy,” says Dr. Funk.
The study results are published on-line in the international Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Recently appointed as Canada Research Chair in Molecular, Cellular and Physiological Medicine, Dr. Funk is an expert in the study of molecules that function in almost every bodily system. The production of prostaglandins is blocked by taking aspirin.
Other members of the research team are from the University of Pennsylvania, where Dr. Funk was on faculty before coming to Queen’s through a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) program.
Pre-eclampsia, which strikes five to 10 per cent of all pregnancies, is characterized by high blood pressure in the mother, and is one of the leading causes of baby and maternal deaths in developing countries. It is believed that the development of new treatments for pre-eclampsia and the early identification and management of this risk in both groups may prevent the onset of long-term heart disease.
In the current study, the research team created a model that mimics low-dose aspirin therapy in mice. They found that the uterine and ovarian environments were altered only slightly, and the mice experienced normal induction of labour, normal litter size, and development of offspring.
“This new mouse model will have significant value in studying the implications of low dose aspirin in several pathological conditions, such as pre-eclampsia, thrombosis, and inflammatory disorders,” says Dr. Funk. “We’re hopeful that our model will lead the way to further treatment options for these debilitating conditions.”
Funding for this research came from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.