They also identified several possible treatments in a paper published online in the journal Nature Communications.
The researchers, led by Dr. Heyu Ni, a scientist in the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science of St. Michael's Hospital, are basic scientists whose ultimate goal is to prevent women who suffer from a disease known as FNAIT from giving birth to underdeveloped babies or miscarrying.
Fetal - Alloimmune - Thrombocytopenia - FNAIT - Women
Fetal and neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia, or FNAIT, affects pregnant women and their unborn babies when the mother's immune system sees some of her fetus' cells as foreign and sends antibodies to attack and destroy those cells.
The researchers found that, in mice, the mother's FNAIT immune response also triggers the activation of natural killer cells that target cells with the father's proteins, including trophoblasts -- cells responsible for the placenta's development and growth.
Natural - Killer - Cells - Type - Lymphocyte
Natural killer cells are a type of lymphocyte -- one of the subtypes of white blood cells in the immune system. They play a major role in defending the fetus against cells carrying viruses and those that are growing abnormally, providing protection from disease and developmental issues in the early stages of pregnancy.
This immune attack can cause the placenta to deform and can disrupt the flow of nutrients to the fetus, both of which may limit the baby's growth in the womb and increase the likelihood of miscarriage, said Dr. Ni, who is also a scientist at Canadian Blood Services Centre for Innovation.
Killer - Cells - Pregnancy - Placental - Development
"Natural killer cells are normal in pregnancy and necessary for early placental development in humans and other mammals, but their number in placenta should decrease in the late stage of pregnancy," he said. "In our study, we found that natural killer cells were not decreased, but prevalent and active in cases of FNAIT."
FNAIT occurs in around one in every 1,000 live births, but it is likely...
Wake Up To Breaking News!