Hormone Secreted by Fetus Linked to Morning Sickness, Study Finds

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Morning sickness is a common experience for pregnant women, with approximately 70 percent of expectant mothers affected by nausea and vomiting. However, a recent study published in the journal “Nature” has shed light on the underlying cause of this condition and offers potential avenues for prevention and treatment.

The study, conducted by researchers from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Sri Lanka, found that a hormone produced by the human fetus, known as GDF15, is responsible for morning sickness. In severe cases, this condition, called hyperemesis gravidarum, can be debilitating, making it difficult for women to eat or drink normally.

The University of Cambridge, one of the institutions involved in the study, explained that the severity of morning sickness depends on both the amount of GDF15 produced by the fetus and the mother’s exposure to this hormone prior to pregnancy.

To arrive at these findings, the research team analyzed data from women who participated in various studies. They employed a combination of approaches, including human genetics, novel hormone measurement techniques in pregnant women’s blood, as well as studies in cells and mice.

This groundbreaking discovery offers hope for both prevention and treatment of pregnancy sickness. The University of Cambridge suggests that exposing mothers to GDF15 before pregnancy could potentially build up their resilience and reduce the severity of symptoms.

Professor Stephen O’Rahilly, one of the co-authors from the University of Cambridge, expressed optimism about the implications of this research for treatment options. He stated, “It… makes us more confident that preventing GDF15 from accessing its highly specific receptor in the mother’s brain will ultimately form the basis for an effective and safe way of treating this disorder.”

Lead author Dr. Marlena Fejzo, from the University of Southern California, shared a personal connection to the research. Having experienced severe morning sickness during her own pregnancy, she recognized the lack of understanding surrounding this common condition. Dr. Fejzo’s team was instrumental in identifying the genetic association between GDF15 and hyperemesis gravidarum.

Dr. Fejzo expressed hope that this newfound understanding of the cause of hyperemesis gravidarum will pave the way for the development of effective treatments. She said, “Hopefully, now that we understand the cause of hyperemesis gravidarum, we’re a step closer to developing effective treatments.”

Hyperemesis gravidarum gained attention in the media when Catherine, the wife of Prince William of the United Kingdom, experienced this condition during all three of her pregnancies. The identification of GDF15 as a key factor in morning sickness offers potential relief for women who face the challenges of hyperemesis gravidarum.

As this research continues to unfold, it holds promise for pregnant women worldwide. By understanding the hormonal cause of morning sickness and exploring potential prevention and treatment options, medical professionals can provide better support and care for expectant mothers.

While more research is needed to fully comprehend the intricacies of morning sickness, this study represents a significant step forward in the field of reproductive health. With further advancements, the day may come when no woman has to suffer unnecessarily from the debilitating effects of hyperemesis gravidarum.

Source: The Manila Times

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