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Grant Awarded to Expand 

The Preeclampsia Registry  

The Community Foundation for Brevard awarded the Brevard-based Preeclampsia Foundation a medical research grant in the amount of $30,000 from the Kenneth R. Finken and Dorothy Hallam Finken Endowment Fund. This grant will be used to study preeclampsia and its impact on the long-term health of mothers and infants through The Preeclampsia Registry™.

"Preeclampsia is a serious condition related to high blood pressure during and after pregnancy," said Eleni Tsigas, Executive Director of the Preeclampsia Foundation. "It's one of the most common complications of pregnancy, impacting one in every 12 pregnancies in the United States. Globally, preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of prematurity and death with 76,000 mothers and 500,000 infants dying every year."
Executive Director Eleni Tsigas gratefully accepts a $30,000 grant award from Community Foundation for Brevard (CFB) Board Members Ron Bray and Mick Welch, CFB Grants & Program Manager Lisa Davidson, CFB Board Member Bob Sukolsky, and CFB President/CEO Sandi Scannelli.
"In addition, preeclampsia is a significant risk factor for long-term heart disease and stroke," continued Tsigas. "Two out of three women with a history of preeclampsia will die from cardiovascular disease, an estimated 4.6 million American women alive today. This research grant will help us better understand the genetic factors associated with preeclampsia and cardiovascular disease in an effort to identify optimal, personalized interventions to prevent and treat heart disease and stroke in women who have experienced preeclampsia."

"We're proud to support Brevard-based medical research benefiting mothers and babies world-wide through this Medical Research Grant to the Preeclampsia Foundation,"said Sandi Scannelli, President/CEO of the Community Foundation for Brevard.

To develop a potential cure, this medical research project will expand The Preeclampsia Registry to include a biobank of DNA samples, allowing for microarray analysis for tens-of-thousands of DNA markers, some of which will undergo exome/genome sequencing.


The first of its kind to focus solely on hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, The Preeclampsia Registry captures self-reported and clinical information as well as family and pregnancy history. Overseen by an Institutional Review Board, the registry ensures participants' privacy and rights in medical research by sharing only de-identified information with approved scientists, researchers, and clinicians.  


For more information on The Preeclampsia Registry, visit or contact Alina Brewer, Registry Coordinator, at


Saving Grace - A Night of Hope Leaves Lasting Legacy  

Our annual Saving Grace - 
Anchorwoman Esme Murphy, of WCCO-TV, returned to emcee this year's event and kept the evening engaging and entertaining!
A Night of Hope dinner
gala celebrated its 10th Anniversary by returning 
to its roots in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was a wonderful, heartfelt evening of inspiration from start to finish, due in no small part to the work of event chairs Jaime Nolan and Kristy Heer and their dedicated volunteer planning committee.
Saving Grace
is named for Jaime's daughter Grace, who was tragically lost to preeclampsia in 2004. (Read Jaime's story)  

Our theme this year was a legacy of hope to celebrate all that Saving Grace has helped the Foundation to accomplish over the past 10 years: $1.2 million raised for education, research, and awareness of preeclampsia. Many individuals and our 2014 event sponsors - Associated Bank, Bayer, Digineer, IntrinXec Management, rEVO Biologics, and others - contributed to this year's event raising $200,000 to support our vital mission areas! 
Gala attendees participated in an energetic lively live auction with auctioneer Andrew Imholte of Fladeboe Auctions.   
Guests enjoyed hearing from keynote speaker Kate Hopper, author of
Ready for Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood, as she detailed her own preeclampsia experience. 
Mobile silent auction bidding was a new feature this year, engaging bidders on over 200 exciting items.   
The winners of the beautiful Falling Star
quilt package made an impromptu 
gesture and presented the quilt to 
event chair Jaime Nolan.

One of the most poignant parts of the evening was the fund-a-need pledge drive to sponsor a multi-media heart health education campaign. Executive Director Eleni Tsigas was joined on stage by Jaime Nolan and Kate Hopper to poignantly illustrate the fact that two out of the three of them, as preeclampsia survivors, would die prematurely due to heart disease. 
Saving Grace ended with a note of hope for the future, as Dr. Tom Easterling, chair of the Foundation's Medical Advisory Board, presented one of two 2014 Vision Grant awards to Dr. Erica Hammer of the University of Vermont.
Guests stepped up by pledging almost $30,000 to make sure the Foundation's heart health message would be heard loud and clear in the near future!
The venue, a unique blend of old and new, was a train depot converted to an ice rink, and arranged for our dinner party. 

The décor included personalized and highly emotive "tribute stars" that hung everywhere, each one inscribed with a message.

Thanks to all who made this a beautiful evening of celebration and hope!


Vision Grant Awards Announced   

Erica Hammer, MD, and Terry K. Morgan, MD, PhD, are the recipients of the Preeclampsia Foundation's 2014 Vision Grants. These two $25,000 research grants were presented at the Foundation's Saving Grace - A Night of Hope event held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on September 12, 2014.

Visions grants are awarded to the strongest scientific proposals recommended by the 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. Erica Hammer received a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in neuroscience and biology from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. After two years working in basic science laboratories, she attended the University of Vermont College of Medicine. Following this, she completed a residency in Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Connecticut and practiced as a general Ob/Gyn for six years. Dr. Hammer returned to the University of Vermont and is now a Maternal-Fetal Medicine fellow.

"I believe that our project, entitled The Role of Efflux Transporters on the Blood-Brain Barrier in Preventing Seizure During Pregnancy, could highlight an important mechanism that may be faulty in preeclampsia," said Dr. Hammer. "For me, as a severe preeclampsia survivor, this is tremendously exciting."

This project will investigate 1) a critical mechanism with which the blood-brain barrier minimizes exposure of the brain to seizure-provoking factors, and 2) how exposure to serum from preeclamptic women affects blood-brain barrier transporters, as circulating factors in those women may cause less effective protection, promoting seizure.

Dr. Terry Morgan received his MD and PhD in Human Genetics from the University of Utah and then completed residency training at Stanford University with an emphasis in Gynecologic and Placental Pathology. He is currently an Associate Professor of Pathology and Obstetrics & Gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University, and a scientist in the Knight Cardiovascular Institute.

"I am a physician-scientist who has dedicated my life to preeclampsia research," said Dr. Morgan. "This commitment has been reinforced by the Preeclampsia Foundation and all of the parents I speak with each year during the Foundation's annual awareness-building event, the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia™."

Dr. Morgan's project is entitled VEGF Gene Delivery to Uterine Spiral Arteries by Ultrasound-Mediated Cavitation of Plasmid-Conjugated Microbubbles Prevents Placental Insufficiency. His research team proposes to rescue spiral artery growth and normalize utero-placental blood flow in a transgenic mouse model of pregnancy-induced hypertension by using vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-conjugated microbubbles and ultrasound to target transfection to these uterine blood vessels and increase VEGF expression.
Inadequate spiral artery growth has long been recognized as a hallmark of preeclampsia, sometimes compromising the growth of the baby.


NICHD: Strong Supporter of Preeclampsia Research

Part of the mission of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of the 27 Institutes and Centers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is "to ensure that every person is born healthy and wanted, that women suffer no harmful effects from reproductive processes, and that all children have the chance to achieve their full potential for healthy and productive lives..."

Preeclampsia is one of the serious public health problems on which the NICHD has focused more closely over the last decade, spurred on by increasingly sobering statistics. Between 2006 and 2010, more than 9 percent of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States resulted from "hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, including preeclampsia,"
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in 2009, more than 4 percent (41.2 per 1,000) of all women giving birth were reported to have gestational or pregnancy-related hypertension (including preeclampsia), a 50 percent rise since 1990 (CDC).

In 2007, NICHD published Preeclampsia-a pressing problem: An executive summary of an NICHD workshop reviewing the research gaps and future research pathways identified during its 2006 workshop. (Editor's Note: the Preeclampsia Foundation participated in that workshop and the resulting publication.) Since that time, funding for research on preeclampsia research has grown, from just under 40 projects about a decade ago, to over 180 preeclampsia-related research projects being funded by the NIH in 2013, with NICHD funding nearly half of those.

Areas of Preeclampsia Research for NICHD

The NICHD supports a range of research on preeclampsia at academic institutions across the country, to understand, prevent, and treat the outcomes of preeclampsia. Clinical trials are an important aspect of these efforts. For example, three recent clinical trials demonstrate the breadth of work in this area:
  • Pravastatin for Prevention of Preeclampsia: a study to determine the pharmacokinetic parameters and collect preliminary safety data for pravastatin (a statin used to reduce cholesterol) when used as a prophylactic daily treatment in pregnant women at high risk for preeclampsia;
  • Biological Markers of Disease in the Prediction of Preterm Delivery, Preeclampsia and Intra-Uterine Growth Restriction: A Longitudinal Study: a study to perform an early and comprehensive exploration of maternal and fetal factors that predict the subsequent development of these obstetric complications so that early medical interventions may be tested in patients at high and low risk for adverse perinatal outcomes.
  • Nulliparous Pregnancy Outcomes Study: Monitoring Mothers-to-be (nuMoM2b): the goal of which is to find ways to identify women, who have not previously been pregnant, who will develop a problem with their pregnancies, and to use this information to improve the health of pregnant women and their fetuses in the future. This study, which has completed recruitment, focuses on such pregnancy problems as preeclampsia, preterm birth, and poor fetal growth.
Other recent studies have found that factors such as pre-pregnancy obesity put women at higher risk for the condition. Research also indicates that preeclampsia is associated with reduced blood flow to the placenta, resulting from placental cells failing to increase the size of blood vessels in the uterus during early pregnancy. In addition, researchers have identified a number of the substances the placenta produces in response to inadequate blood supply. These substances, which are released into the mother's blood stream, are thought to damage the blood vessels and thus cause the disease.

Researchers supported by the NICHD hope to identify biological markers for preeclampsia to help diagnose and predict the potential severity of the condition. For example, evidence suggests that an imbalance of two specific proteins (name them) may be a possible biomarker. Other NICHD-funded research is examining the role of autoantibodies in preeclampsia. These proteins (name them), made by the immune system, target the body's own tissues. Understanding their function may lead to possible means of blocking their production as a way to prevent or treat preeclampsia.

Most recently, the NICHD launched a new collaborative research effort-the Human Placenta Project (HPP)-to understand the role of this vital organ in health and disease. The placenta is the least understood human organ and arguably one of the most important, influencing not just the health of a woman and her fetus during pregnancy, but the lifelong health of both. Among other goals, this project is aimed at developing new technologies for real-time assessment of placental development, applying these technologies to understand placental development and function in normal and abnormal pregnancies (such as the development of preeclampsia), and develop interventions to prevent abnormal placental development, thereby improving pregnancy outcomes.

Information provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Develoment (NICHD). 


An Aspirin a Day for Preeclampsia Prevention  

Aspirin is generally not recommended during pregnancy, as it can lead to bleeding problems for both mother and baby. But for some women, the benefits of a daily low-dose aspirin after the first trimester may outweigh the risk.

Results from multiple clinical trials showed that using low-dose aspirin lowered the risk of preeclampsia in pregnant women at high risk for the condition. The clinical trials also found that low-dose aspirin reduced the risk for premature delivery and low birth weight of infants.

Based on these findings, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a recommendation that women at high risk for preeclampsia take a daily low-dose aspirin after 12 weeks of pregnancy to help prevent the condition from developing. The USPSTF recommendation mirrored the 2013 guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (see related article on 

Making Preeclampsia History in 2013 

The 2013 Annual Report is now available! Click the image to read the full report. 

Featured Event  

If you are a federal employee, 

please give to the Preeclampsia Foundation during the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) season 

from September 1 to December 15. 

Use CFC #99819 to designate 

your contribution to the 

Preeclampsia Foundation. 

Thank you for your support!


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