Pre-eclampsia, the development of hypertension and proteinuria or end-organ damage during pregnancy, is a leading cause of both maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality, and there are no effective clinical treatments for pre-eclampsia aside from delivery. The development of pre-eclampsia is characterized by maladaptation of the maternal immune system, excessive inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. We have reported that detection of extracellular RNA by the Toll-like receptors (TLRs) 3 and 7 is a key initiating signal that contributes to the development of pre-eclampsia. PLacental eXpanded (PLX-PAD) cells are human placenta-derived, mesenchymal-like, adherent stromal cells that have anti-inflammatory, proangiogenic, cytoprotective and regenerative properties, secondary to paracrine secretion of various molecules in response to environmental stimulation. We hypothesized that PLX-PAD cells would reduce the associated inflammation and tissue damage and lower blood pressure in mice with pre-eclampsia induced by TLR3 or TLR7 activation. Injection of PLX-PAD cells on gestational day 14 significantly decreased systolic blood pressure by day 17 in TLR3-induced and TLR7-induced hypertensive mice (TLR3 144–111 mmHg; TLR7 145–106 mmHg; both P<0.05), and also normalized their elevated urinary protein:creatinine ratios (TLR3 5.68–3.72; TLR7 5.57–3.84; both P<0.05). On gestational day 17, aortic endothelium-dependent relaxation responses improved significantly in TLR3-induced and TLR7-induced hypertensive mice that received PLX-PAD cells on gestational day 14 (TLR3 35–65%; TLR7 37–63%; both P<0.05). In addition, markers of systemic inflammation and placental injury, increased markedly in both groups of TLR-induced hypertensive mice, were reduced by PLX-PAD cells. Importantly, PLX-PAD cell therapy had no effects on these measures in pregnant control mice or on the fetuses. These data demonstrate that PLX-PAD cell therapy can safely reverse pre-eclampsia-like features during pregnancy and have a potential therapeutic role in pre-eclampsia treatment.

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