Natural killers: when cells go wrong

What is this research about?

Collected in August 2017

Fetal and neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia, or FNAIT, is a life-threatening disease affecting approximately 1 in 1,000 live births, but what is it? To break down its name: fetal and neonatal – affecting newborns and babies still in the womb; alloimmune — an immune response from the mother against the baby; thrombocytopenia – resulting in low platelet counts. FNAIT is characterized by severe bleeding, brain hemorrhage, growth restriction and, in some cases, death of the fetus or newborn. The bleeding symptoms are explained by the low platelet counts and other identified factors, but it is not yet clear why FNAIT results in growth restriction or miscarriage.

In brief: This study clarifies how maternal antibodies can cause fetal growth restriction and miscarriage, and introduces a new therapeutic target: natural killer cells.

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