Posted by Leanne Kodsman on
Nausea and vomiting are never fun, and for some women, this can be an extreme and dangerous issue during pregnancy. New research suggests that there are two genes associated with this condition.
Experiencing morning sickness during pregnancy is not uncommon, but about 2% of pregnant women experience "hyperemesis gravidarum," a more severe form of nausea and vomiting that can sometimes lead to hospitalization. This is the condition that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, famously dealt with, and is the second leading cause of hospitalization during pregnancy.
Hormones? Nope. Genes.
New research, as recently reported in ScienceDaily, suggests that there are two genes associated with hyperemesis gravidarium. Known as GDF15 and IGFBP7, the two genes are both involved in placenta development and are important in both early pregnancy and appetite regulation.
Until now, it was assumed that hormones associated with pregnancy were to blame for extreme nausea and vomiting, but the new study found no evidence that hormones were the culprit. The two identified genes are also related to cachexia, which is a weight- and muscle-loss condition that leads to death in roughly 20% of cancer patients and has similar severe nausea and vomiting symptoms.
Finding the Cause
Past research indicates that hyperemesis gravidarum often runs in families, suggesting a genetic component. For this study, researchers compared DNA variations in pregnant women suffering no nausea and vomiting to that of those with hyperemesis gravidarum to identify variation between the two groups. The study's findings were then confirmed in an independent study of women with the condition.
Following up on that research, a separate study was conducted in which it was proven that the protein levels for GDF15 and IGFBP7 are abnormally high in women known to have hyperemesis gravidarum.
These findings suggest new areas to look into to help a condition that has been notoriously difficult to treat. For example, is altering GDF15 and IGFBP7 protein levels safe during pregnancy, and does this lessen the severity of the symptoms? Researchers are hopeful that these findings will lead to the development of new medications and treatments that could offer relief for those suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum.
Further Reading & References:
Marlena S. Fejzo, Olga V. Sazonova, J. Fah Sathirapongsasuti, Ingileif B. Hallgrmsdttir, Vladimir Vacic, Kimber W. MacGibbon, Frederic P. Schoenberg, Nicholas Mancuso, Dennis J. Slamon, Patrick M. Mullin & 23andMe Research Team. Placenta and appetite genes GDF15 and IGFBP7 are associated with hyperemesis gravidarum. Nature Communications, 2018 DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03258-0
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences. "Two genes likely play key role in extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy: Study will help scientists better understand debilitating condition." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 March 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180321090849.htm.
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