Improving our knowledge of the factors for Miscarriages

Sudanese scientist, Sahwa Adil Nourein, wants to prevent women from going through the heart-wrenching experience of miscarriage. Looking into the possible link between stillbirth and ethnicity, she will improve women's health throughout the world.

Losing a baby before birth is a heart-wrenching experience for over 3 million women across the world every year. This experience is even more traumatic when it is repeated at each pregnancy. In many cases, recurrent stillbirths are linked to auto-immune conditions. This causes the mother’s immune system to turn against the tissues involved in pregnancy, which it considers as foreign, causing the death of the unborn baby. Sahwa Adil Nourein, a trained medical doctor, hopes to shed light on this phenomenon by studying the link between stillbirth and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease affecting mainly women.

In Sudan, as in many other sub-Saharan African countries, there is a high incidence of stillbirths but no data exists to show if the stillbirths are a result of SLE. Research indicates that there is increased prevalence and aggressiveness of SLE in populations of African descent than in Caucasians. Black SLE patients are also known to have higher levels of autoantibodies, which are manufactured by the immune system but directed against one of the body’s own proteins. One of these is a particular form of the anti-phospholipid antibody (APA) which has been strongly linked to recurrent stillbirths and miscarriages because of its role in abnormal blood clotting in the placenta.

Sahwa plans to investigate whether the high incidence of stillbirths in Sudan is directly linked to SLE or a specific form of APA. During her fellowship at Uppsala, she will take advantage of ongoing research into SLE, APAs and stillbirths at Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden. She will do a comparative clinical study of women suffering from SLE and recurrent stillbirths in Sweden and Sudan to help her better understand the causes of high fetal mortality in her country. She will use immunological and genetic analysis of blood samples from the patients to determine which types of autoantibodies are present and to identify any genetic associations associated with ethnicity.

Sahwa hopes that by deepening knowledge of the factors underlying stillbirth in

Sudanese women, she and her medical colleagues will be better equipped to provide appropriate treatment for pregnant women, thereby improving their chances of having a healthy baby.

For Women in Science

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