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MCW Researcher to Study Causes of Complications in Pregnancy

Medical College of Wisconsin                                                                                                      For more information, contact:

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For Immediate Release:

October 23, 2013

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin  Research Institute  have received a four year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to study abnormalities in blood coagulation that affect women’s health and pregnancy. The grant will specifically focus on the role of maternal platelets in the placenta and pregnancy complications. Placenta-mediated pregnancy complications have serious health consequences for the mother and the baby.

Rashmi Sood, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology at MCW and an investigator at the Research Institute, is the primary investigator of this grant. Her research is focused on studying how environmental pollution and preexisting maternal conditions, such as thrombophilia, diabetes and obesity, compromise placental function. Suboptimal placental function is associated with fetal growth restriction, small birth weight, preterm delivery and, in severe cases, fetal or perinatal death. It increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adult life. Adverse consequences for the mother include hypertensive disorders, such as preeclampsia. These conditions affect 5 to 8% of all pregnancies.

A developing fetus relies on the placenta for nutrition and other essential functions.  To perform these functions, the human placenta forms unusual vascular spaces filled with maternal blood and directly accessible to placental cells. Such vascular spaces are not found anywhere else in the human body. It is unclear how blood flow is maintained in these vascular spaces and how blood clotting abnormalities (thrombophilias) compromise placental function. Using rodent models of blood clotting abnormalities, the Sood laboratory has established a critical and unconventional role of maternal platelets in causing thrombophilia-associated placental dysfunction and fetal death. The federal grant has been awarded to examine the mechanisms by which maternal platelets cause placental abnormality.  Understanding these mechanisms is expected to improve our ability to identify targets of therapeutic intervention for reducing or preventing thrombophilia-associated placental disease.

This project is supported by the National Institutes of Health under award number 1R01HL112873-01A1.

About the Medical College of Wisconsin

The Medical College of Wisconsin is the state’s only private medical school and health sciences graduate school.  Founded in 1893, it is dedicated to leadership and excellence in education, patient care, research and community engagement. More than 1,200 students are enrolled in the Medical College’s medical school and graduate school programs.  A major national research center, it is the largest research institution in the Milwaukee metro area and second largest in Wisconsin. In FY 2011 – 12, faculty received more than $166 million in external support for research, teaching, training and related purposes, of which more than $152 million is for research. This total includes highly competitive research and training awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Annually, College faculty direct or collaborate on more than 2,000 research studies, including clinical trials. Additionally, more than 1,350 physicians provide care in virtually every specialty of medicine for more than 425,000 patients annually.

About Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is the region’s only independent health care system dedicated solely to the health and well-being of children. The hospital, with locations in Milwaukee and Neenah, Wis., is recognized as one of the leading pediatric health care centers in the United States. It is ranked No. 4 in the nation by Parents magazine and ranked in 9 specialty areas in U.S.News & World Report’s 2013-14 Best Children’s Hospitals report. Children’s Hospital provides primary care, specialty care, urgent care, emergency care, community health services, foster and adoption services, child and family counseling, child advocacy services and family resource centers. In 2011, Children’s Hospital invested more than $100 million in the community to improve the health status of children through medical care, advocacy, education and pediatric medical research. Children’s Hospital achieves its mission in part through donations from individuals, corporations and foundations and is proud to be a member of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. For more information, visit the website at

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