Morning sickness in pregnancy blamed on protein in the placenta

High levels of the protein have been linked with nausea in pregnant women – a discovery that might lead to new anti-sickness drugs

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Morning sickness. It has been blamed on all sorts of things – from carrying girls to multiple pregnancies. But a UK study of nearly 800 pregnant women suggests that a protein called GDF15 might be the real culprit.

It appears to trigger sickness by acting in the brain, most likely to protect the foetus from circulating toxins or infections. Targeting the protein could provide a new and more precise way to combat morning sickness, which affects 70 to 90 per cent of pregnant women.

It has long been known that pregnant women produce high amounts of GDF15 in their liver and placental tissue. The protein is normally involved in inflammatory processes associated with tissue injury.

Recently, it was discovered that it is also associated with food aversion after researchers showed that high levels of GDF15 put mice off their meals.

To find out if GDF15