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New research into pre-eclampsia

Queen’s doctor works on new process to prevent or treat pre-eclampsia.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has recognized a promising new treatment for pre-eclampsia being developed by Queen’s University researcher Graeme Smith. Dr. Smith recently received a $198,942 Catalyst Grant which will help advance his research.

“The only treatment we have for pre-eclampsia right now is delivery which often leads to premature births and that just isn’t a solution,” says Dr. Smith (Obstetrics and Gynecology). “Treatments using different types of medications have not been successful.”

Pre-eclampsia is a disorder in pregnancy characterized by the onset of high blood pressure. The disease affects two to eight per cent of pregnancies worldwide and is one of the most common causes of death due to pregnancy and it increases the risk of poor outcomes for both mother and baby.

Dr. Smith and his team are researching increasing the normal production of carbon monoxide in humans as well as external exposure to low doses of carbon monoxide in pregnancy. Studies have shown the gas is an important substance that, at low concentrations, plays an role in the health of pregnant and non-pregnant humans.

Carbon monoxide could provide the key to improving the blood flow between mother and baby to help prevent or treat pre-eclampsia.

“We have different approaches to try to determine if this will work including turning on or turning up the carbon dioxide production in our bodies or using a drug treatment to increase carbon monoxide in pregnant mothers,” says Dr. Smith. “There is still a long way to go as we have to prove this is safe but we are taking solid first steps.”

Queen’s distinguishes itself as one of the leading research-intensive institutions in Canada. The mission is to advance research excellence, leadership and innovation, as well as enhance Queen’s impact at a national and international level. Through undertaking leading-edge research, Queen’s is addressing many of the world’s greatest challenges, and developing innovative ideas and technological advances brought about by discoveries in a variety of disciplines. Queen’s University is a member of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities.