A New Hope for Preeclampsia Sufferers

Preeclampsia

A simple, commercially available nutritional extract may be the key to treating pregnant women suffering with a dangerous condition, preeclampsia.

Researchers at the School of Clinical Sciences, Monash University have been using a promising natural extract for the management of this condition. Dr Sarah Marshall and her team discovered that consumption of broccoli seed extract increased levels of an antioxidant – sulforaphane - and decreased levels of stress from the placenta.

Preeclampsia can affect approximately 1 in 20 pregnancies and is one of the biggest contributors to premature birth in Australia. It can result in serious, even fatal complications for both mother and the baby. The disorder can limit the baby’s oxygen and nutrient supply, negatively affecting development. Although the exact causes of preeclampsia are unknown, it is assumed to occur when there is a problem with the placenta - the organ that links the baby's blood supply to the mothers.

This study, published in the journal Reproductive Science, compared the bioavailability of sulforaphane in non-pregnant women, with the aim to optimize the dose for women with preeclampsia to inform the design of the future clinical trials. The researchers tested an over-the-counter broccoli seed extract medicine to treat and reduce the severity of preeclampsia, and found that consumption of broccoli sprout seed extract resulted in a decrease in blood pressure as well as a decline in markers of placental stress, with an improvement in metabolism markers.

Over the years, the naturally occurring sulforaphane has been getting interest as potential antioxidant with therapeutic properties to aid in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory and neurological disorders and schizophrenia. However, the levels of sulforaphane that has been identified for therapy would require a woman to consume 2kg of uncooked broccoli a day.

“At Monash Medical Centre, after our promising pre-clinical and early clinical trials, we are starting a large-scale trial to see how effective broccoli seed is in treating preeclampsia,” lead researcher, Dr Sarah Marshall from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Monash University said. She added, “broccoli seed extract is conveniently available in capsule form making it a cheap and easily accessible treatment worldwide if further clinical trials prove its efficiency.”

Dr Marshall states that “If we can improve the symptoms of preeclampsia, we will enhance the survival and overall health of both the mother and baby long term.”

Originally published as a Media Release in the PhD coursework program TRM6002 by Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology doctoral candidate, Ms Hope Newman.

Reference

Langston-Cox AG, Anderson D, Creek DJ, Palmer KR, Marshall SA, Wallace EM. Sulforaphane Bioavailability and Effects on Blood Pressure in Women with Pregnancy Hypertension. Reprod. Sci. 2021;28(5):1489–97.


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Monash University is Australia’s largest university with more than 80,000 students. In the 60 years since its foundation, it has developed a reputation for world-leading high-impact research, quality teaching, and inspiring innovation.

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