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Circulation. 2011 Aug 23;124(8):940-50. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.034793. Epub 2011 Aug 1.

Pilot study of extracorporeal removal of soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 in preeclampsia.

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Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.



Targeted therapies to stabilize the clinical manifestations and prolong pregnancy in preeclampsia do not exist. Soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 (sFlt-1), an alternatively spliced variant of the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 1, induces a preeclampsia-like phenotype in experimental models and circulates at elevated levels in human preeclampsia. Removing sFlt-1 may benefit women with very preterm (<32 weeks) preeclampsia.


We first show that negatively charged dextran sulfate cellulose columns adsorb sFlt-1 in vitro. In 5 women with very preterm preeclampsia and elevated circulating sFlt-1 levels, we next demonstrate that a single dextran sulfate cellulose apheresis treatment reduces circulating sFlt-1 levels in a dose-dependent fashion. Finally, we performed multiple apheresis treatments in 3 additional women with very preterm (gestational age at admission 28, 30, and 27+4 weeks) preeclampsia and elevated circulating sFlt-1 levels. Dextran sulfate apheresis lowered circulating sFlt-1, reduced proteinuria, and stabilized blood pressure without apparent adverse events to mother and fetus. Pregnancy lasted for 15 and 19 days in women treated twice and 23 days in a woman treated 4 times. In each, there was evidence of fetal growth.


This pilot study supports the hypothesis that extracorporeal apheresis can lower circulating sFlt-1 in very preterm preeclampsia. Further studies are warranted to determine whether this intervention safely and effectively prolongs pregnancy and improves maternal and fetal outcomes in this setting.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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