LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Back in 1999, researcher Marlena Fejzo, PhD, at UCLA and USC lost her baby because of extreme morning sickness. Since then, she’s worked tirelessly to find a reason behind the condition that affects two percent of women. With the help of the DNA company 23andMe, she believes she’s zeroed in on a cause, the first step toward a treatment.
Both of Jennie and Andreas Karrer’s children are healthy. But Jennie was so sick during her pregnancies that some days, she couldn’t get out of bed.
Jennie shared, “It feels like a very bad stomach flu where you want to die because you can’t do anything. You can’t move, you know?”
Moms with hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG, get nausea and vomiting, and lose their appetites and drop weight. It can get so bad, they need IV’s, medication, and feeding tubes. Fejzo studied thousands of pregnant moms’ DNA and noticed that proteins from two genes are abnormally high in women with HG.
Fejzo said, “The protein then goes to the brain and signals this loss of appetite and nausea and vomiting in extreme cases. So there’s quite a bit of evidence now that it is a cause.” (Read Full Interview)
Her discovery doesn’t mean relief is coming soon, but it’s a start.
“Finally, we have some answers so we can start to look at therapies that will target those proteins and hopefully lower them safely in pregnancy.” Fejzo stated.
Jennie says treatment for HG would be amazing: “I would be so happy for other moms, and if I were supposed to have another kid, I would be happy for myself, obviously.”
Fejzo has already started research to prove the cause. Then come trials for therapies that she hopes would be safe for pregnant women. Since the two genes are also responsible for a form of extreme nausea that occurs in cancer patients, she’s hoping that drug development will be expedited.
Contributors to this news report include: Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Dave Harrison, Editor.
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TOPIC: EXTREME MORNING SICKNESS: CURE FOR THE ROYALS AND EVERYDAY MOMS?
REPORT: MB #4425
BACKGROUND: Hyperemesis gravidarum is a condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance. Mild cases are treated with dietary changes, rest, and antacids. More severe cases often require a stay in the hospital so that the mother can receive fluid and nutrition through an intravenous line. Most pregnant women experience some type of morning sickness . Recent studies show that at least 60,000 cases of extreme morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum are reported by those who are treated in a hospital but the numbers are expected to be much higher than this since many women are treated at home or by their health care provider.
TREATMENT: It is believed that this severe nausea is caused by a rise in hormone levels; however, the absolute cause is still unknown. The symptoms of HG usually appear between four to six weeks of pregnancy and may peak between nine and 13 weeks. Most women receive some relief between weeks 14-20, although up to 20 percent of women may require care for hyperemesis throughout the rest of their pregnancy. There is no known prevention of hyperemesis gravidarum but there are ways to manage it. In some cases, hyperemesis gravidarum is so severe that hospitalization may be required. Hospital treatment may include intravenous fluids to restore hydration, electrolytes, vitamins, and nutrients, tube feeding, or medications.
NEW RESEARCH: Marlena Fejzo, PhD, an associate researcher at UCLA and USC is researching extreme morning sickness and the two genes that are linked to it. She said, “Many years ago I talked to the personal genetics company 23andMe and asked them to add questions related to nausea and vomiting in pregnancy in their surveys. We have partnered with them to analyze the data. By last year they had over 50,000 women that had reported on their levels of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. We compared the genetic variation in women with no nausea and vomiting to women with very severe nausea and vomiting or hyperemesis gravidaram. And what we found then was that the women with hyperemesis had difference in their DNA around the two genes GDF15 and IGFBP7.” Fejzo’s hope is that a medication will be tested for cancer patients with severe nausea, and then patients with hyperemesis gravidarum can eventually benefit.
(Source: Marlena Fejzo, PhD)
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Marlena Fejzo, PhD
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