Maternal-Fetal Immune Tolerance in Preeclampsia

Hilary S Gammil, MD

We hypothesize that inadequate immunologic tolerance of the fetus by the mother contributes to the development of preeclampsia. Several lines of evidence point toward an immunologic contribution to the pathophysiology of preeclampsia. In normal pregnancy, general maternal immunocompetence in the face of specific tolerance of the semiallogeneic fetus suggests tolerance mechanisms that are antigen-specific. Quantitative and qualitative changes in regulatory T cells play an important role in adaptation to normal pregnancy. Early studies show heightened maternal cellular reactivity against fetal cells in preeclampsia as compared with normal pregnancy, but the precise mechanisms and cellular populations involved have not been elucidated.

The proposed studies will launch novel mechanistic investigations aimed to begin to understand immunopathogenic contributions to preeclampsia. If aberrant regulatory mechanisms are confirmed, this area presents an important point of potential therapeutic intervention, an area which is already under active investigation in the areas of transplantation and autoimmunity.

Funding Source: Preeclampsia Foundation
Contact: Hilary S Gammil, MD, (206) 667-4053
Ends 12/31/2010