Pregnancy complications involving the placenta can affect both the mother and fetus, and represent significant societal costs. These conditions are hard to predict and frustrating to treat because, by and large, their causes are unknown. From the second trimester onward, patients face the risk of developing preeclampsia, a syndrome of poor placenta function. Preeclampsia puts a potentially dangerous stress on the mother, affecting blood pressure and kidney function.
Our research seeks to develop a greater understanding of the normal placenta and preeclampsia by studying which genes and proteins are causing poor penetration of placental cells into the uterus. We also seek to develop diagnostic tests to capture preeclampsia even earlier than currently possible, and test drugs that are proposed to reverse preeclampsia and ensure they have no adverse effect on the fetus, the placenta, or the mother.
Previous studies suggest statins may be used to safely treat preeclampsia. Statins are drugs for hypercholesterolemia that also protect blood vessels. Our research will determine how statins protect the placenta during preeclampsia. This work will be done in collaboration with physicians testing the ability of statins to treat preeclampsia in clinical trials. This partnership will focus on determining how statins affect blood vessel connections and if additional drugs may also promote the health of the fetus and mother.