Iowa researchers find early predictor for preeclampsia

Published on September 17, 2014

University of Iowa researchers have discovered a biomarker that could give expecting mothers and their doctors the first simple blood test to reliably predict that a pregnant woman may develop preeclampsia, at least as early as 6 weeks into the pregnancy.

Preeclampsia is a cardiovascular disorder generally occurring late in pregnancy and often resulting in an early delivery, creating immediate and potentially lifelong risks to both mother and baby. It causes high blood pressure and protein in the urine, and is typically diagnosed in the late second or third trimester of pregnancy. Between 5 and 7 percent of all pregnancies in the United States are affected with preeclampsia, equating to roughly 4,000 pregnancies in Iowa or around 500,000 in the United States per year. More than 100,000 women worldwide die from the disease each year.

In their paper, “Vasopressin in Preeclampsia: A Novel Very-Early Human Pregnancy Biomarker and Clinically-Relevant Mouse Model,” study authors demonstrate that elevated secretion of arginine vasopressin (AVP) can be a very early biomarker of a preeclamptic pregnancy.

The paper was published online in the American Heart Association’s journal, Hypertension. It will be published in print in October.  A summary of the research findings can be found on the University of Iowa website.

Study authors included Mark Santillan, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist, Justin Grobe, assistant professor of Pharmacology and a Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA), Donna Santillan, research assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Gideon Zamba, associate professor of Biostatistics, UI College of Public Health; Sabrina Scroggins, postdoctoral research fellow, UI Carver College of Medicine; James Min, student, University of Iowa; Jeremy Sandgren, student, UI Carver College of Medicine; Nicole Pearson, M.P.H., research assistant, UI Carver College of Medicine; Kimberly Leslie, chair and DEO of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Stephen Hunter, professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology; and Katherine Gibson-Corley, director, Histology Research Laboratory and assistant professor of pathology.