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New Research Grant Program Awards First Recipient Funding to Study Methylation in Preeclampsia

Last Updated on Friday, June 01, 2018

The Preeclampsia Foundation announces the recipient of the 2018 Peter Joseph Pappas Research Grant, a new grant funding program designed to accelerate preeclampsia research. This first two-year grant, in the amount of $138,696 USD, will be awarded to Kent Thornburg, PhD, and his team at the Center for Developmental Health, Knight Cardiovascular Institute Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), in Portland, Oregon.

Based on the recommendation of its Scientific Advisory Council, the Preeclampsia Foundation selected Thornburg’s research proposal called “Targeted High-Throughput Methylome Analysis of Early and Late Onset Preeclampsia.”

Thornburg’s research aims to determine one chemical change in DNA (called methylation) from mothers with preeclampsia and her baby and compare it with DNA from women and babies who did not have preeclampsia. The project will use data from The Preeclampsia Registry to study DNA from women in each of these three groups: those who experienced preeclampsia before 32 weeks’ gestation, after 32 weeks, and women who did not experience the condition. By determining the differences in DNA methylation profiles between women with and without preeclampsia, the research will identify which genes are likely to have made the women vulnerable for acquiring the disease.

Thornburg is the M. Lowell Edwards Chair of Cardiovascular Research, Professor of Medicine, in the Knight Cardiovascular Institute at OHSU. He studies how women adapt to normal pregnancy or to preeclampsia or diabetes, and how the placenta is affected by a variety of diseases. Thornburg also collaborates with scientists around the world, and served as co-chair of the National Institute of Child and Human Development 10-year plan for developmental origins.

Named for the infant son of preeclampsia survivor Lauren Pappas and her husband Clement, the Peter Joseph Pappas Research Grants program will award grants totaling up to $200,000 each year. The ultimate goal of the program is to drive research that will eliminate the delivery of pre-term babies as an intervention for severe preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, and related hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. 

“We lost our son Peter due to preeclampsia following a 29-week delivery in 2015,” explained Lauren Pappas. “Since then we have dedicated our lives to helping others avoid the same outcome by establishing the Peter Joseph Pappas Fund.”

“Thanks to generous contributions from family and friends, and our partnership with the Preeclampsia Foundation, we are making strides to reach our ultimate goal of eliminating pre-term births due to preeclampsia by 2050,” added Clement Pappas.

Thornburg’s research will utilize data available through The Preeclampsia Registry™, the Preeclampsia Foundation’s dynamic database of research participants that includes preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome survivors, family members, and controls (unaffected individuals).

The Peter Joseph Pappas Research Grants program adds to the Preeclampsia Foundation’s portfolio of research programs including the Vision Grant program for young investigators, PRIME for health services research, and EMPOWER, which helps build research capacity in low- and middle-income countries.

If you have any questions about the Peter Joseph Pappas Research Grants program, please email PJPGrants@preeclampsia.org.

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