A federal grant study headed by scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine showed that pregnant women who later have postpartum depression (PPD) after delivering a baby have disrupted cell-to-cell communication. On September 22, Molecular Psychiatry released this study’s findings.
Pregnancy-related disorders such as premature deliveries, toxic maternal hypertension, and gestational diabetes have all been connected to modifications in extracellular RNA transmission, a recently founded cell signaling technique.
Researchers from the current study investigated maternal blood to find out whether PPD caused any significant variations in this extracellular communication system. According to the research report, aging and abnormal cell components are not removed from the bodies of women who suffer from PPD.
It is also known that people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease experience malfunctions in this process, referred to as autophagy. Sarven Sabunciyan, argues that postpartum depression may be treated with several Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease drugs that stimulate autophagy.
Postpartum depression, which affects one out of nine new mothers, is characterized by extended periods of grief, loneliness, and incapacity to care for the baby. The disturbance of the infant’s cognitive, social, and emotional development is just one of the many possible adverse effects of postpartum depression, according to Sabunciyan. “We might stop these tragic experiences if we could recognize mothers who were possibly more at risk before the child’s birth.” The search for genetics or other biomarkers for PPD has been ongoing for many years.
The research team focused on messenger RNA (mRNA) grouped in extracellular vesicles (EVs), which are biological materials required for intercellular communication. This communication system, according to Sabunciyan, becomes more active throughout pregnancy to address needs for embryo development. Additionally, a mother’s placenta secretes vital RNA that is essential for the fetus’ developing immune system and defense against viruses.
The research team collected samples of blood from 42 pregnant women under the supervision of neuroscientist Sabunciyan, who conducts research that looks at the causes of psychiatric issues.
Recently founded sequencing and computational analysis tools were utilized to assess the levels of hundreds of distinct mRNAs packaged into EVs in the blood samples of 14 individuals during the second and the third trimesters of pregnancy and up to 6 months after delivery. Seven of the patients were identified with postpartum depression following childbirth. During their pregnancies, none of these women showed any signs of depression.
The mRNA levels found to vary drastically in PPD participants were subsequently examined in the samples of an additional 28 pregnant women. PPD was detected in 14 of these women, and 5 of them showed depression signs during pregnancy.
The researchers discovered that the extracellular RNA communication levels of 2,449 mRNAs varied (1,439 decreased and 1,010 increased) among individuals who experienced PPD in comparison to those who didn’t. The great majority of these alterations occurred during pregnancy rather than after birth.
The scientists also found that EV mRNA levels related to autophagy were lower in women who acquired PPD later in life. Furthermore, they discovered that EV mRNAs linked to PPD arose in white blood cells called monocytes/macrophages.
This study was restricted by a lack of variety and a limited sample size. However, if more research verifies the findings, scientists hope to create a lab test that can identify pregnant women who may be at risk of getting PPD after childbirth.
Sabunciyan says, “We’re likely to be capable of averting a lot of severe impacts of postpartum depression if we manage to identify people at risk earlier and put them into appropriate treatment.”