Reproductive and Vascular Immunology – Preeclampsia and pregnancy
One of the most concerning cardiovascular disorders is high blood pressure, a condition where the pressure of blood against the wall of a blood vessel is dangerously high. High blood pressure can lead to heart attack and stroke. There is also a condition in which high blood pressure manifests during pregnancy, preeclampsia, and this syndrome is a focus of our work in the reproductive and vascular immunology laboratories. There is evidence that the development of preeclampsia may involve abnormal immune mechanisms.
We now understand that those women who have preeclampsia during their pregnancy are at increased risk for heart attack and stroke for years after the pregnancy. The disease pattern of these women is different from the “classical” pattern of clogged blood vessels observed in other populations. Instead, in women who had preeclampsia the blood vessels tend to become very stiff and are unable to dilate normally. In that patient group, we are investigating how inflammation and abnormalities of the immune system during and after the preeclamptic pregnancy impacts the vascular health with particular interest in potential treatment options.