Natural Killer Cell Activity Investigation

About Natural Killer Cells

Immune factors affecting pregnancy

The body’s immune system includes among its functions the ability to recognise ‘foreign’ or threatening invasion by infection or cancer cells. In some instances (called autoimmune diseases) the immune system mistakenly recognises and attacks ‘self’, and this leads to inflammation, damage and disease.

Pregnancy is a unique situation in which the placenta invades the lining of the womb and is a potential threat to the wellbeing of the mother. The mother’s immune system must recognise that threat, but also respond in such a way that does not eliminate it. The mother’s immune system is critical in establishing the relationship between the mother and the fetus that allows both to flourish.

The immune system has two main mechanisms:

cellular (type 1); 

andantibody (type 2)

In normal pregnancy, substances produced by the placenta (particularly progesterone) cause a shift in how the mother’s immune system behaves so that it becomes ‘type 2 dominant’. This is because type 1 responses are potentially more dangerous for the pregnancy. People with autoimmune diseases, such as Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis tend to have high levels of anti-nuclear antibodies, that can lead to inflammation of the uterus and placenta, implantation failure and recurrent miscarriages.