Medical Treatment & Drug Development
Mother’s Immune System, HIV and Preterm Birth
University of Cape Town
Pregnancy thus requires a high degree of immune regulation, the mechanisms of which Dr. Chanzu aims to work out through her current research in South Africa. Comparing HIV-positive and uninfected expectant mothers will help her better understand the normal structure and function of a growing placenta. Part of the fine-tuning of the pregnant immune system is the function of a population of regulatory cells, called Tregs. It is thought that these cells can stop the mother from rejecting her developing baby and ensure the state of tolerance. Dr. Chanzu suspects that the numbers of these very specialized cells are altered when the mother is HIV infected and being treated with antiretroviral drugs. Pregnancy is a fine balance between tolerance and inflammation and if the regulator cells go off-balance, it is suspected that inflammation wins the day and the baby is born prematurely.
Prematurity is linked to one million deaths each year and babies born to HIV-positive women are especially exposed. Dr. Chanzu hopes that her research will show that the HIV-infected mother taking antiretroviral drugs results in unregulated inflammation events in the placenta and an altered state of tolerance. This information lays the foundation for finding new therapies to help reduce these events and therefore mitigate the numbers of premature births that occur in these vulnerable populations.
Scientific title: Identification Of Immunological Risk Factors Associated With Adverse Birth Outcomes In A Setting Of In Utero HIV And Antiretroviral Drug Exposure
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