McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Sanjeev Shroff, PhD (pictured), Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair in the Department of Bioengineering, as well as Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, is one of several University scientists taking part in a $6.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The funding will enable researchers at the University of Pittsburgh-affiliated Magee-Womens Research Institute to investigate what role obesity may play in preeclampsia, a common complication of pregnancy that can be life-threatening for mother and baby. The grant is a renewal of funds originally awarded 14 years ago to support studies into the basic mechanisms of preeclampsia, but the focus on obesity is a new direction for research.
A plague of obesity in the United States already is known to increase the risk of illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems. The obesity focus represents an entirely new direction in these preeclampsia studies, which are part of a14-year collaboration among researchers from Magee and the University of California, San Francisco.
Pittsburgh researchers will study the interactions of proteins, lipids, and other cellular components in an effort to discover important relationships between body weight and preeclampsia, a disorder characterized by dangerously high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Preeclampsia affects about 5 percent of first pregnancies, and women with preeclampsia are more likely to suffer the disorder in subsequent pregnancies.
Investigations associated with the 5-year NIH grant revolve around the interactions of specific immune system factors and basic cellular components to discover their relationship to the metabolic stress of pregnancy and placental development to result in the hallmarks of preeclampsia.
“Preeclampsia is complex, with components involving improper vascular growth and functioning in the placenta, inflammation, and other factors. Obesity also is related to inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance, abnormal fatty acids, and a host of other metabolic concerns,” said Carl A. Hubel, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and principal investigator of the project.
The Magee-Womens Research Institute, the country’s first research institute devoted to women and infants, was established in 1992 by Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. The Institute has attracted some $100 million in grant funding focusing on the critical need for research in women’s and infant’s health and representing the Institute’s continued strong ties to the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences and UPMC.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Media Relations (08/14/08)
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (08/14/08)
Medical News Today (08/15/08)
Bio: Sanjeev G. Shroff, PhD