Pregnancy hypertension, or Pre-eclampsia, is a complex disorder of pregnancy. Treatment of elevated blood pressure can manage the condition in the mother, but in severe cases delivery is needed, which can present a major problem to the baby if it is born prematurely.
Now, research from the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics at University College Cork (UCC), the INFANT Centre at UCC and the University of Liverpool, as well as The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) at Technical University of Denmark, have shown in a rat model that a natural diet-derived antioxidant L-ergothioneine can relieve some of the clinical symptoms of Pre-eclampsia. The hope is that the same will be in evidence in humans.
Our research shows that treating rats with pre-eclampsia with the natural antioxidant L-ergothioneine reduced blood pressure, prevented fetal growth restriction and dampened production of the damaging substances released from the placenta during pre-eclampsia."
Dr. Cathal McCarthy, leader of this research in a press release from the INFANT Centre at UCC
In order to be able to make enough L-ergothioneine to eventually treat patients, the scientists are looking into ways of producing this compound efficiently in high amounts using yeast cell factories. Ergothioneine can be found in a wide variety of foods, but in particular in mushrooms, where amounts are relatively high compared to other foods.
"Today, ergothioneine is either made chemically or extracted from mushrooms, but at DTU Biosustain we are developing a method to make it biologically. This should lead to its much wider availability at competitive prices," says Douglas Kell, Associated Scientific Director at DTU Biosustain and Research Chair in Systems Biology Department of Biochemistry, University of Liverpool. At DTU Biosustain, Douglas Kell and his team work closely together with the group of Senior Researcher Irina Borodina to produce L-ergothioneine biologically using advanced genomic engineering.
Much evidence exists for L-ergothioneine's benefits in a variety of neurological and vascular disorders as well. Thus, L-ergothioneine appears to be a safe, natural diet-derived antioxidant whose therapeutic potential looks promising but remains to be validated in human clinical trials.
Williamson, R.D., et al. (2019) L-(+)-Ergothioneine Significantly Improves the Clinical Characteristics of Preeclampsia in the Reduced Uterine Perfusion Pressure Rat Model. Hypertension. doi.org/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.119.13929.