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 Study reveals interaction of preeclampsia risk factors

A research team including a Brown faculty member has discovered how two distinct risk factors may interact to lead to preeclampsia, a condition in which pregnant women experience high blood pressure and increased levels of protein in their urine that can pose a health risk for them and their babies.

The research, which was published online in August and will run in the Journal of Reproductive Immunology, was led by Elizabeth Triche, assistant professor of epidemiology.

Triche’s study examined how the two specific risk factors relate to expectant women’s immune responses to pregnancy, which scientists have thought may be responsible for preeclampsia, according to a University press release.

Triche, along with collaborators at the University of Iowa, examined data provided by the Study of Pregnancy Hypertension in Iowa. Their study included data from over 200 pregnant women, more than half of whom developed preeclampsia.  She and her team honed in on two risk factors — the amount of mothers’ vaginal exposure to fathers’ semen and the similarity between specific genes in parents’ and fetuses’ immune systems.

The study found that women who had limited vaginal exposure to the father’s semen prior to pregnancy and parents whose specific immune system genes matched their fetuses were at higher risk for developing preeclampsia, according to the press release.

Though these two risk factors had been examined individually, the cumulative effects had not been studied before. Even after accounting for other risk factors, Triche and her team found that women with both risk factors were over four times more likely to develop the condition.

This study suggests that couples who may want to conceive down the road use non-barrier methods of birth control that will increase the likelihood of contact between the vagina and paternal semen, Triche said in the release.


Chemistry professor honored for contributions

The American Chemical Society honored Richard Stratt, professor of chemistry, as one of 96 fellows for 2013 at the society’s meeting last week.

Stratt was selected for his development of “theoretical methods that provide ways to understand and analyze the ultrafast dynamics of collisions, solvation and reaction in solution as well as his service to the public and the ACS,” according to a University press release.

The fellows program began in 2009, according to the program’s website.

“This is an honor bestowed on members for their outstanding accomplishments in scientific research, education and public service,” said Bassam Shakhashiri, former ACS president, in a society press release.


BRAIN project progresses

The National Institutes of Health released an interim report Monday outlining key goals and a more detailed guiding plan for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative.

Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science John Donoghue PhD’79 P’09 P’12 MD’16 is among the 15 researchers spearheading the effort.

The goal of the initiative is to fill in the “gap in our knowledge in understanding the brain,” Donoghue told The Herald last March, after he and other scientists released a proposal to President Obama detailing the project’s initial objectives.

Obama announced the initiative in April, leading to the creation of a working group. This group will refine the initiative’s goals and develop a plan for carrying out research to achieve new objectives.

The report identifies eight “high-priority” research goals, including the creation of “structural maps of the brain” and the linking of “neuronal activity to behavior.”

“We are at a unique moment in the history of neuroscience — a moment when technological innovation has created possibilities for discoveries that could, cumulatively, lead to a revolution in our understanding of the brain,” the report’s authors wrote.

The working group plans to finalize the report by June.


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