Immunological and para-immunological mechanisms in spontaneous abortion: recent insights and future directions
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Unexplained spontaneous abortion in humans is currently thought to be related to genetic or immunologic factors. Animal models of spontaneous abortion have been used to try to gain some insight into the problems in humans. From studies of animal models there is increasing evidence that a variety of mechanisms may initiate pregnancy failure and participation of immunologic effectors may be a secondary event. Recent studies indicate that murine abortion that occurs spontaneously (without deliberate immunization by the investigator) may be initiated by para-immunologic host effector cells such as NK cells, macrophages and their toxins that possess selective toxicity which is not antigen-specific. The potential importance of local non-specific suppressive mechanisms in the uterus is also highlighted by their ability to block non-specific para-immune effector cell activation, and by their potential relationship to growth factors in decidual supernatants that promote placental cell growth in vitro. Levels of non-specific suppression do not appear low when fetal death can be attributed to a genetic mutation. The concept that different tissue components of the feto-placental unit serve as targets of different immunologic and para-immunologic effectors is defined. The new insights into the pathophysiology of murine abortion and its correction can provide a useful framework for further analysis of the role of para-immunologic effector mechanisms in unexplained abortion in humans and in non-murine veterinary conditions.
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