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A Journal on Obstetrics and Gynecology

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Minerva Ginecologica 2012 August;64(4):309-20

language: English

Endothelial dysfunction. An important mediator in the pathophysiology of hypertension during pre-eclampsia

Lamarca B.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS, USA


Pre-eclampsia is defined as new onset hypertension with proteinuria during pregnancy. It affects approximately 5% of pregnancies in the US with a subset of those progressing into more severe forms of the disease, known as HELLP or eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is associated with intrauterine growth restriction, chronic immune activation and multi-organ endothelial dysfunction thus contributing to the clinically visible elevation in maternal blood pressure. The end result is increased infant and maternal morbidity and mortality thereby contributing to the gross health care expenditure nationwide. Although the underlying cause of this disease is still unknown, the most well accepted hypothesis is that placental ischemia/hypoxia results from inadequate uteroplacental vascular remodeling, which leads to a decrease in placental blood flow. The ischemic placenta releases factors such as the soluble VEGF receptor-1 (sFlt-1), the angiotensin II type-1 receptor autoantibody (AT1-AA), and cytokines such as TNF-α and Interleukin 6 which cause maternal endothelial dysfunction characterized by elevated circulating endothelin (ET-1), reactive oxygen species (ROS), and enhanced vascular sensitivity to angiotensinII. These factors act in concert to decrease renal function and cause hypertension during pregnancy. Understanding the link between placental ischemia, endothelial dysfunction and hypertension during pregnancy will lend to better prediction, prevention and treatment strategies for women and children stricken by this devastating disease.

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