To B or not to B cells-mediate a healthy start to life

Authors


Correspondence: T. G. Nguyen, Perinatal Research, Kolling Institute Building at Royal North Shore Hospital, Reserve Road, Sydney, NSW 2065, Australia. E-mail: tommie.nguyen@sydney.edu.au or J. M. Morris, Perinatal Research, Kolling Institute Building at Royal North Shore Hospital, Reserve Road, Sydney, NSW 2065, Australia. E-mail: jonathan.morris@sydney.edu.au

Summary

Maternal immune responses during pregnancy are critical in programming the future health of a newborn. The maternal immune system is required to accommodate fetal immune tolerance as well as to provide a protective defence against infections for the immunocompromised mother and her baby during gestation and lactation. Natural immunity and antibody production by maternal B cells play a significant role in providing such immunoprotection. However, aberrations in the B cell compartment as a consequence of maternal autoimmunity can pose serious risks to both the mother and her baby. Despite their potential implication in shaping pregnancy outcomes, the role of B cells in human pregnancy has been poorly studied. This review focuses on the role of B cells and the implications of B cell depletion therapy in pregnancy. It highlights the evidence of an association between aberrant B cell compartment and obstetric conditions. It also alludes to the potential mechanisms that amplify these B cell aberrances and thereby contribute to exacerbation of some maternal autoimmune conditions and poor neonatal outcomes. Clinical and experimental evidence suggests strongly that maternal autoantibodies contribute directly to the pathologies of obstetric and neonatal conditions that have significant implications for the lifelong health of a newborn. The evidence for clinical benefit and safety of B cell depletion therapies in pregnancy is reviewed, and an argument is mounted for further clinical evaluation of B cell-targeted therapies in high-risk pregnancy, with an emphasis on improving neonatal outcomes and prevention of neonatal conditions such as congenital heart block and fetal/neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia.

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