Two Genes (GDF15 & IGFBP7) Likely Play Key Role in Extreme Nausea and Vomiting During Pregnancy

Most women experience some morning sickness during pregnancy, but about 2 percent of pregnant women experience a more severe form of nausea and vomiting. Sometimes the symptoms are so serious that hospitalization is required. Known as hyperemesis gravidarum, the condition is the same one that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, endured in her pregnancies. A new study led by researchers at UCLA and published online on March 23, 2018 in Nature Communications has identified two genes associated with hyperemesis gravidarum, whose cause has not been determined in previous studies. The genes, known as GDF15 and IGFBP7, are both involved in the development of the placenta and play important roles in early pregnancy and appetite regulation. The open-access article is titled “Placenta and Appetite Genes GDF15 And IGFBP7 Are Associated with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.” "It has long been assumed that the pregnancy hormones, human chorionic gonadotropin or estrogen, were the likely culprits of extreme nausea and vomiting, but our study found no evidence to support this," Marlena Fejzo, PhD, the study's first author, said. She is an Associate Researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. The two genes, she added, coincidentally, are linked to cachexia, a weight loss and muscle wasting condition that leads to death in about 20 percent of cancer patients and has similar symptoms to hyperemesis gravidarum. Dr. Fejzo herself had hyperemesis gravidarum and lost a pregnancy to the condition in 1999. The debilitating symptoms can include rapid weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration due to persistent nausea and/or vomiting. Current medications to treat the condition are largely ineffective and can lead to serious health consequences for both mother and baby.
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