Does Postpartum Depression Affect Your Immune System?
,” said lead author Jerry Guintivano, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UNC Department of Psychiatry.
That’s why a team of researchers from the UNC School of Medicine conducted the largest transcriptome-wide association study for PPD to date.
Previous studies have only analyzed whole blood samples. This study took a deeper look and examined the different components of blood.
They took blood samples from 1,500 racially and ethnically diverse women from across North Carolina who had given birth within the past six weeks, 482 of whom were diagnosed with PPD.
Researchers used RNA sequencing, DNA genotyping, and assessment of DNA methylation – amounting to three levels of basic biology evaluation to look for differences in components of the blood samples from women with PPD versus women without PPD.
They found that B-cells had significant differences in women with PPD. B-cells are an important part of the immune system. They become activated when their receptor recognizes an antigen and binds to it. Activated B-cells then produce antibodies, and also secrete pro- and anti-inflammatory factors.
It has to prevent infection from a cold, and it also has to finely tune itself so it doesn’t recognize the fetus as a foreign body and attack it. Then in the postpartum period, all these hormones and pathways reset to get back to pre-pregnancy.
In women with PPD, the UNC researchers found thousands of individual B-cell transcripts that were different from women without PPD, regulated in part by genetic variants and DNA methylation. To confirm those findings they conducted pathway analysis, which implicated altered B-cell activation and insulin resistance.
Researchers are hoping to conduct a longitudinal study that tracks women across a longer period to see how B-cells change through pregnancy and into the postpartum period.