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Autoimmune-Disease Proteins Higher After Pregnancy (Reuters) ... nervous system and destroys myelin, the protective coating that insulates nerve fibers in the brain and spine.......Similarly, levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha were about 40% lower during the third trimester.... - Oct 30 5:23 PM ET


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Website: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20011030/hl/proteins_1.html

Posted on: 10/30/2001

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Tuesday October 30 5:22 PM ET "Autoimmune-Disease Proteins Higher After Pregnancy"

Autoimmune-Disease Proteins Higher After Pregnancy

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who suffer from autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis may find relief during pregnancy but their symptoms may become even worse after they give birth.

Now, a preliminary study suggests that increased levels of certain stress hormones during the final trimester of pregnancy may suppress immune system proteins involved in inflammation, a hallmark of autoimmune disorders. But in the weeks after pregnancy, levels of these hormones fall sharply, resulting in higher levels of inflammatory proteins that may contribute to arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

"This finding has important implications for understanding why immune disorders may subside during pregnancy but flare up again after birth," Dr. Duane Alexander, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in Bethesda, Maryland, said in a prepared statement.

Multiple sclerosis occurs when the body's immune system attacks the central nervous system and destroys myelin, the protective coating that insulates nerve fibers in the brain and spine. The destruction of myelin can lead to numbness, muscle weakness and stiffness. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the lining of the joints, causing pain, stiffness and inflammation. There is no cure for either disease.

In the new study, researchers led by Dr. Ilia J. Elenkov of Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC, measured levels of various immune system proteins in the blood of 18 healthy pregnant women during their third trimester and in the weeks after birth.

According to results published in the October issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, levels of interleukin-12 (IL-12) were about three times lower in the final trimester of pregnancy compared with levels measured after birth. Similarly, levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha were about 40% lower during the third trimester. IL-12 and TNF-alpha are proteins that trigger the body's immune system to fight disease but are also involved in the swelling and tissue destruction that marks autoimmune disorders.

Meantime, levels of cortisol, norepinephrine and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin were higher in the third trimester compared with levels measured after birth. Previous studies have shown that these hormones can suppress levels of IL-12 and TNF-alpha, the researchers explain.

While further studies are needed, the findings may ultimately help scientists to understand the processes involved in autoimmune disorders and develop new treatments for conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, the NICHD's Alexander said.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2001;86:4933-

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