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Placenta. 2017 Aug;56:59-64. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2017.03.003. Epub 2017 Mar 7.

Natural killer cells in placentation and cancer: Implications for hypertension during pregnancy.

Author information

1
Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom. Electronic address: h.small.1@research.gla.ac.uk.
2
Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Mississippi Medical Centre, Jackson, MS, USA.
3
Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Abstract

Hypertension during pregnancy is the most common medical condition encountered during gestation. Despite this, knowledge of the mechanisms that underlie the disease and the development of new therapies are limited. Hypertension during pregnancy and some forms of cancer confer an increased risk to the development of cardiovascular disease later in life; one mechanism which may link these conditions is the involvement of natural killer (NK) cells. Whilst immunology and immunotherapy are well-developed areas in oncology; the complex mechanisms of the immune system in health and disease at the maternal-fetal interface are less well-defined. Natural killer (NK) cells have emerged as key immune cells involved in physiology and pathology of pregnancy. These small lymphocytes are present in the decidua (the uterine-specific uNK cells) and are distinct from peripheral NK cells. The uNK cell population plays a vital role in mediating trophoblast invasion and affecting decidual vascular remodelling whereas the role of the peripheral NK cell population during pregnancy is less well-defined. This review will give an overview of NK cell biology followed by a discussion of the current evidence for the role of uterine and peripheral NK cells at the maternal-fetal interface in health and disease. Furthermore, examples of NK cell research from cancer biology will be employed to inform future directions of research. By combining this knowledge from oncology where the field of immunotherapy has now matured into clinical trials; it is hopeful that new mechanisms can be elucidated to generate targets for similar therapeutic strategies for women with hypertensive pregnancies where interventions are needed.

KEYWORDS:

Cancer; Immunology; Natural killer cells; Placenta

PMID:
28318556
DOI:
10.1016/j.placenta.2017.03.003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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