Cardiovascular Adaptations in Pregnancy and Preeclampsia
The focus of our current studies is endocrine and paracrine factors that regulate cardiovascular health during pregnancy. An imbalance of pro-/anti-angiogenic factors can lead to the development of an abnormal uteroplacental unit and ultimately to intrauterine growth restriction and preeclampsia. Placental ischemia can also induce the release of endocrine factors into the maternal circulation and/or paracrine factors into the uteroplacental space altering fetal development. However, the regulation of angiogenic or inflammatory factors in the feto-maternal interface is not well understood. Using an integrative multidisciplinary approaches including physiological and cellular techniques such as in vitro studies in human endothelial and trophoblast cells and human placental tissue as well as in vivo rodent models of normal, IUGR, preeclampsia, and hypertensive pregnancies, our current studies have focused on the posttranslational regulation of apelin receptor system and its interactions with the renin-angiotensin systems at the feto-maternal interface and cardiovascular system.
Photoacoustic Imaging of Tissue Hypoxia
Another area of research is developing the application of novel imaging modalities including photoacoustics and ultrasound for the assessments of tissue oxygenation and perfusion during pregnancy and preeclampsia. We have demonstrated that 3D ultrasound-guided photoacoustic imaging can be successfully applied for the assessments of placental oxygenation during normal pregnancy and in models of pregnancy complications associated with hypertension (L-NAME infusion) and fetal growth restriction (ACE2 KO pregnant mouse). We have validated our findings by establishing that lower oxygenation of placenta in these models is associated with upregulation of hypoxia markers (Yamaleyeva
, et al., Faseb J, 2017).