Pre-eclampsia is increasingly recognized as more than an isolated disease of pregnancy. Women who have had a pregnancy complicated by pre-eclampsia have a 4-fold increased risk of later cardiovascular disease. Intriguingly, the offspring of affected pregnancies also have an increased risk of higher blood pressure and almost double the risk of stroke in later life. Experimental approaches to identify the key features of pre-eclampsia responsible for this programming of offspring cardiovascular health, or the key biological pathways modified in the offspring, have the potential to highlight novel targets for early primary prevention strategies. As pre-eclampsia occurs in 2-5% of all pregnancies, the findings are relevant to the current healthcare of up to 3 million people in the U.K. and 15 million people in the U.S.A. In the present paper, we review the current literature that concerns potential mechanisms for adverse cardiovascular programming in offspring exposed to pre-eclampsia, considering two major areas of investigation: first, experimental models that mimic features of the in utero environment characteristic of pre-eclampsia, and secondly, how, in humans, offspring cardiovascular phenotype is altered after exposure to pre-eclampsia. We compare and contrast the findings from these two bodies of work to develop insights into the likely key pathways of relevance. The present review and analysis highlights the pivotal role of long-term changes in vascular function and identifies areas of growing interest, specifically, response to hypoxia, immune modification, epigenetics and the anti-angiogenic in utero milieu.

Original publication

DOI

10.1042/CS20110627

Type

Journal article

Journal

Clin Sci (Lond)

Publication Date

07/2012

Volume

123

Pages

53 - 72

Keywords

Animals, Cardiovascular Diseases, Disease Susceptibility, Endothelium, Vascular, Female, Humans, Hypoxia, Inflammation, Pre-Eclampsia, Pregnancy, Rats, Sex Characteristics, Uterus, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A