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 Med School Discovery

Jeffrey Gilbert, Ph.D., Anne Gingery, Ph.D., and Emma Bahe, a junior scientist, are studying the effects of impaired placental blood flow in pregnant rats, altered hormone levels due to restricted blood supply in the placenta, and the cardiovascular and renal physiology of preeclamptic rats.

Dr. Gilbert points to an image that shows the presence of numerous proteins in the serum of hypertensive pregnant rats.

A Discovery in Duluth to be Unveiled in April

Medical School–Duluth Campus researchers are shedding light on confounding data concerning preeclampsia, a potentially devastating condition of late-term pregnancy that affects about eight percent of all pregnancies in the United States. High blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine of pregnant women are the early and most visible signs of the disease, which can result in liver dysfunction and seizures. Preeclampsia is the leading cause of fetal growth restriction and preterm birth. Babies born to preeclamptic mothers often suffer from low birth weight, which can lead to greater health risks as the babies grow.

Now add these worrisome statistics:

• During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the incidence of preeclampsia nationwide increased by 40 percent.

• Certain ethnic groups, including Native Americans and African Americans, have a greater incidence of preeclampsia.

• Women who had preeclampsia during their pregnancies have higher rates of cardiovascular disease as they age.

Then consider this surprise: Women who have had full-term pregnancies have a lower incidence of breast cancer, and the incidence is lower yet for women who had preeclampsia!

What is the relationship among these data and what can scientists learn and do about it?

Jeffrey Gilbert, Ph.D., assistant professor, and Anne Gingery, Ph.D., an IRACDA (Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards) postdoctoral fellow, both in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, are seeking answers.

In a unique project, they want to identify which substance the placenta is releasing during preeclampsia that can reduce the incidence of breast cancer in formerly preeclamptic women. Armed with a better understanding of those substances and how they interact with mammary tissue, they hope to advance the discovery of new therapeutic strategies for preventing or treating breast cancer. In April 2009, Gilbert and Gingery will present findings that demonstrate a link between preeclampsia and breast cancer at the 2009 Experimental Biology Meeting in New Orleans, where 13,000 scientists from around the world will share research findings in various areas of study. Gingery also will receive a New Investigator Award from the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine for her contributions to this study.

For information contact Michelle Juntunen at

Medical School - Duluth Newsletter

Medical School - Duluth

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