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Preeclampsia Research Will Study Effects on Brain and a Known Diabetes Medication with Possible Preventative Benefits

Last Updated on Monday, October 10, 2016

Vision Grant Recipients are from the United States and the Netherlands

Melbourne, Florida – October 10, 2016 – The Preeclampsia Foundation has announced that Sarah Schalekamp–Timmermans, MD, PhD, and Jacqueline Parchem, MD, are the recipients of its 2016 Vision Grants, highly competitive monetary awards recognizing the best young investigators with novel research ideas in preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. These two $20,000 research grants are awarded to the strongest scientific proposals recommended by the Preeclampsia Foundation’s scientific review committee with a further review by a consumer advisory board. The Foundation’s Board of Directors renders the final decision on those recommendations.

Dr. Sarah Schalekamp-Timmermans has earned her PhD, a masters in Clinical Epidemiology, a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and postdoctoral training in the Netherlands. Her research, “Maternal cerebrovascular health after preeclampsia” will be conducted at Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Vascular brain diseases, such as dementia and stroke, are often due to damage to small blood vessels in the brain. This damage can be caused by cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension. Preeclampsia, a specific hypertensive disorder which occurs during pregnancy, is also an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease in later life and might therefore also be associated with the development of damage to small blood vessels in the brain. This may then lead to an increased risk for vascular brain diseases. This study investigates the relationship between less severe preeclampsia and damage to small blood vessels in the brain, insights which may help to assess and potentially improve neurovascular health in women with previous history of preeclampsia.

Dr. Schalekamp-Timmermans’s mentor, Dr. James M. Roberts explained, “There are reports of cognitive differences and MRI lesions in women who previously had preeclampsia that are quite concerning. Most studies in the past have been on women with severe preeclampsia. Dr, Schalekamp-Timmermans’s  asks the very important question, ‘Are these findings also present in women with preeclampsia without severe features?’ Her involvement with Generation R – a research study consisting of 10,000 pregnant women in which fetal growth and development was studied - provides an enormous resource with data gathered during pregnancy as well as follow-up, currently to about nine years.”

As a medical resident, Dr. Schalekamp-Timmermans sees on a weekly basis what an enormous impact preeclampsia can have on a mother and her family. “I hope to contribute to research and the field of prevention and cure of hypertensive pregnancy outcomes and disease in later life,” she said.

Dr. Jacqueline Parchem, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine fellow at Baylor College of Medicine and a research fellow at MD Anderson Cancer Center, will study “Metformin in a catechol-O-methyltransferase deficiency model of preeclampsia”. As her mentor, Dr. Raghu Kalluri, MD, PhD said, “Jackie’s tendency to think and work beyond the existing silos in research science and academia will serve her well as she moves forward in her career.” Dr. Parchem received her B.A. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California Berkeley in 2004 and her M.D. from the University of California San Francisco in 2010.  She completed residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCSF in 2014.

Her proposal is based on recent findings that suggest metformin, a common diabetes drug, can influence placental function, and that the risk of preeclampsia may be lower in women taking metformin during pregnancy. The experiments outlined in Dr. Parchem’s research project will test the effectiveness of metformin on the development of preeclampsia in a mouse model that exhibits all the hallmark features of preeclampsia and examine its effects on the placenta. Results of this study will provide information about the value of testing metformin in clinical trials for women at high risk for preeclampsia.

“While I frequently see women with preeclampsia, it is a disease we don’t understand very well. Because of its unpredictability and the potential devastating consequences, we often turn to delivery of the baby and the placenta when there are signs that a mother’s condition is worsening. One of my goals as a maternal-fetal medicine doctor is to learn more about the biology of preeclampsia so that we can find new ways to prevent and treat it,” said Dr. Parchem.

About the Preeclampsia Foundation
The Preeclampsia Foundation is a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 2000.  As the nation’s only patient advocacy organization dedicated to hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, the Foundation works to achieve its mission by raising public awareness, providing patient support and education, improving healthcare practices, and catalyzing research.  The Foundation envisions a world where preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders of pregnancy no longer threaten the lives of mothers and their babies. For more information, visit www.preeclampsia.org.


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