Severe Morning Sickness is Genetic


Pregnancy can be consuming for a woman, but for one small group, it can be crippling. Up to two percent of pregnant women get acute morning sickness or HG which stands for hyperemesis gravidarum. Charlotte Bronte died from it and Kate Middleton or Duchess Kate had it.

Unlike most pregnant moms who are only nauseous in the first trimester, these women vomit throughout the pregnancy, and if untreated, can lose their babies. That's what happened twenty years ago to the lead scientist of a new study.

Dr. Marlena Feizo at UCLA may have uncovered the protein responsible for HG. Researchers had known that mothers and sisters of women with HG face an extremely high chance of also having HG, so this suggested a genetic link.

Dr. Fejzo partnered with the genetic testing company twenty-three-and-Me to ask pregnancy illness questions of their customers. Researchers examined the DNA of thousands of customers looking for variations in women with HG. They honed in on the GDF-fifteen gene on chromosome nineteen, which is associated with placental development and appetite. Meanwhile, other studies also connected the gene to HG.

In one, women who vomited during the second trimester had elevated levels of GDF-fifteen. Cancer patients with anorexic muscle wasting syndrome which includes nausea and vomiting also had higher levels. One study with mice that had their brain receptor for GDF-fifteen eliminated were resistant to nausea induced by chemotherapy drugs.

All these studies suggest this gene is a player in HG and targeting it could help scientists develop a drug to help new moms and protect their babies.

More Information

Placenta and appetite genes GDF15 and IGFBP7 are associated with hyperemesis gravidarum
Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, occurs in 0.3'2% of pregnancies and is associated with maternal and fetal morbidity. The cause of HG remains unknown, but familial aggregation and results of twin studies suggest that understanding the genetic contribution is essential for comprehending the disease etiology...

Protein may explain morning sickness, and worse
fter paralyzing nausea and intractable vomiting caused her to lose the baby she was carrying in 1999, Marlena Fejzo decided to use her professional skills to understand her personal tragedy. A geneticist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Fejzo began to research hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), an extreme form of the 'morning sickness' that afflicts most pregnant women...

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (Severe Nausea & Vomiting During Pregnancy)
Extreme, persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum) can lead to dehydration. Treatment may include preventive measures such as eating small meals and eating only bland foods. Medications might be necessary...