Perth researchers are moving closer to preventing blood clots that can cause miscarriage.
High levels of oestrogen in women who are pregnant or using oral contraceptives are known to be linked to low levels of anti-clotting factor, but how the process occurs is unclear.
Murdoch University researchers are now studying the role of small molecules known as microRNAs.
Jasmine Tay, from the WA Centre for Thrombosis and Haemostatis, said the study was trying to unravel how abnormal blood clots formed during pregnancy and how to predict women at higher risk.
Thrombosis occurred when a blood clot stopped blood flowing through a blood vessel.
“It is typically found in the lower leg and if part of the clot breaks away it can cause serious health issues such as stroke, heart attack or pulmonary embolism,” she said.
While blood clots could affect anyone, they were the second leading cause of death in pregnant women and could cause fertility problems and miscarriage.
Oestrogen levels typically surged in pregnant women to help with foetal development and prepare the mother’s body for birth.
This resulted in a rise in levels of clotting factor and a fall in anticoagulants to prevent women bleeding in childbirth.
Dr Tay said laboratory tests showed that high oestrogen levels similar to those seen in pregnancy caused changes to microRNA levels, which in turn reduced the production of a powerful anti-clotting factor known as Protein S.
The researchers were now hoping to confirm the link in a clinical study of 150 women, including some who were pregnant or taking the contraceptive pill.
“This will hopefully show if changes to specific levels of microRNA are associated with Protein S deficiency during periods when oestrogen levels are high,” she said.
Professor Ross Baker, who heads Murdoch’s thrombosis research, said the results could help develop new diagnostic tests and treatments for people susceptible to oestrogen-linked diseases such as thrombosis.
Details of the research at wacth.org.au.