Improving birth outcomes, one amino acid at a time – sciencedaily

A simple dietary supplement (L-arginine) has been shown to improve birth outcomes, paving the way for future clinical trials to test this inexpensive and safe intervention.

In their article titled “Malaria in Pregnancy Alters L-arginine Bioavailability and Placental Vascular Development”, Science Translational Medicine, March 7, 2018, researchers from the Toronto General Research Institute (TGRI) and the University of Toronto report that Malawian women with malaria during pregnancy had altered levels of L-arginine, which were associated with poor outcomes at the birth. L-arginine is an amino acid that improves blood flow and circulation that humans get from their diet, including eggs, meat, and dairy products.

In an experimental model of malaria in pregnancy, supplementing the diet of pregnant mice with L-arginine increased blood vessel development in the placenta and reduced low birth weight / preterm births and stillbirths.

Premature births and stillbirths are the leading causes of death among children, accounting for about 2 million deaths per year; however, there are few safe and effective interventions. Globally, many of these poor birth outcomes are associated with maternal infections such as malaria.

Led by Dr Chloe McDonald and Dr Kevin Kain of the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network (UHN), scientists show that L-arginine supplementation prevents malaria from depleting L-arginine nitric oxide (NO ) trail.

In the body, L-arginine is converted to nitric oxide, which is essential for the normal development of placental blood vessels and healthy births. By the time a woman gives birth, there are 250 kilometers of blood vessels in the placenta, which provide essential oxygen and nutrients for the rapidly growing baby.

“Our work shows that L-arginine is an essential element in the regulation of a key pathway that promotes the development of blood vessels in the placenta. Infections such as malaria can interfere with this pathway, limiting placental vascular development. have long-term effects on surviving babies, including impaired brain and behavioral development, ”said Dr McDonald, adding that research into safe and effective ways to promote healthy births is urgently needed.

Dr Kain notes that the L-arginine- (NO) biosynthetic pathway identified in this research may be a common pathway underlying other conditions linked to poor birth outcomes, both in countries with low birth rates. low or high income like Canada.

“Our results have broad implications not only for malaria in pregnancy (125 million at-risk pregnancies each year), but also for other globally important causes of adverse birth outcomes such as preeclampsia,” explains the Dr Kain, who is also Scientific Director, Tropical Diseases Unit at Toronto General Hospital, UHN.

Since L-arginine can be given to women as a simple, safe, and inexpensive dietary supplement (in peanuts, for example) during pregnancy, Dr Kain and Dr McDonald are now planning clinical trials on it. man to assess its impact on human birth. results.

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