Larry Reynolds, University Distinguished Professor of animal sciences, recently participated as the “content expert” in a podcast produced by the American Physiological Society.
The podcast discussed the implications of an article in the American Journal of Physiology: Heart and Circulatory Physiology. The title of the article is, “Exposure to Stimulatory CpG Oligonucleotides During Gestation induces Maternal Hypertension and Excess Vasoconstriction in Pregnant Rats.”
Also participating in the podcast was the lead author of the paper, Dr. Styliani (Stella) Goulopoulou from the Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases, University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, as well as moderator Dr. Nancy Kanagy, University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque, who also is an associate editor for the journal.
In the article, Goulopoulou and colleagues utilized a synthetic compound – unmethylated CpG oligonucleotide (ODN) – that mimics natural compounds released into the maternal circulation by placental cells and also by bacteria in women with a systemic bacterial infection. The ODN stimulates the maternal immune system and also affects the maternal cardiovascular system. Goulopoulou and colleagues utilized pregnant rats that were treated with the ODN during mid to late pregnancy and found that the ODN caused increased blood pressure and altered systemic vascular function in the pregnant rats but not in non-pregnant controls.
The study has important implications for several major complications of pregnancy in humans, and especially a condition known as preeclampsia. Preeclampsia annually affects 5 to 10 percent, or 6 to 13 million pregnancies worldwide and 3 to 5 percent, or abut 150,000 pregnancies in the U.S. The disease is a major cause of maternal deaths worldwide, accounting for 50,000 to 75,000 deaths each year. Because the majority of women in the U.S. are under the care of a physician during pregnancy, few women die from preeclampsia in the U.S. Nevertheless, in the U.S. preeclampsia is still associated with elevated risk of preterm birth, stillbirth and postnatal mortality in the babies, as well as increased risk of hypertension, ischemic heart disease and stroke in the mothers after pregnancy.
The hallmark of preeclampsia is elevated maternal blood pressure and compromised maternal kidney function during pregnancy. “By establishing a potential link between CpG oligonucleotides released into the maternal circulation by placental cells and infectious bacteria and cardiovascular function during pregnancy, the paper by Dr. Goulopoulou and colleagues may help us develop novel therapies to reduce the incidence or severity of preeclampsia,” said Reynolds. “Such novel therapies are profoundly important because, despite its being well known as a major pregnancy complication for millennia, the only effective treatment to this day for severe preeclampsia is to deliver the fetus and placenta.”
The podcast is entitled, “CpG DNA and Maternal Vascular Function.” In addition, the podcast is linked to the article, posted on the American Journal of Physiology Facebook site and Twitter feed and is downloadable on iTunes.