Regal Lab focuses on Pregnancy-induced Hypertension

Based on the Duluth campus, Dr. Jean Regal, a professor in the Pharmacology Department of Biomedical Sciences, has dedicated her research program to understanding the basic immune mechanisms of cardiopulmonary disease, as well as having a long-standing interest in the complement system as a mediator of adverse events in disease states, such as anaphylaxis, asthma and most currently pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Funded through the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute of NIH, Dr. Regal’s research lab has been focusing on high blood pressure and pregnancy. “One out of ten women get high blood pressure during pregnancy,” said Regal. “It’s really bad for the baby and they end up being born smaller, or born pre-term. The mothers who have preeclampsia during pregnancy and their babies both have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. So it’s not just the immediate problem, it’s the long term problem as well.”

 The initiating event of preeclampsia involves impaired blood flow to the placenta and the end result for the mother is high blood pressure and protein in the urine, along with growth restriction in the fetus. During pregnancy, the immune system including the plasma complement system, is tightly regulated to allow fetal survival.

 “In women with preeclampsia the complement system is excessively activated, and our long term goal is to determine the therapeutic utility of manipulating the complement system to prevent preeclampsia, or minimize consequences for the mother and child,” said Regal. “We address the issues using an animal model by using pregnant rats. We hypothesized that complement system activation and white blood cell recruitment lead to hypertension in the mother and growth restriction in the fetus. Thus, in the lab with my four students, we are manipulating the complement system and white blood cell function in a model of placental ischemia induced high blood pressure to determine the critical mechanisms responsible for the adverse events.”

 In addition to Dr. Regal’s research, she is the Director of the AHC Duluth Women's Mentoring Program, a research seminar series promoting a supportive and positive environment for the career development of women faculty in the Medical School, Duluth campus and College of Pharmacy Duluth. You can learn more about the AHC Duluth Women's Mentoring Program, by clicking here