The research interests of Elizabeth Ann L. Enninga, Ph.D., focus on the regulation of mothers' immune systems to fetuses that have a combination of traits from each parent (semi-allogeneic fetus) during pregnancy. She also performs studies to determine whether there are differences in the maternal immune response based on the sex of the fetus in utero. This includes studying the local (placental) and systemic (blood) immune response during gestation.
- Local regulation at the placental interface. Dr. Enninga investigates conditions in which regulation is not maintained at the maternal-fetal interface, leading to the infiltration of maternal immune cells into the placenta. This inflammatory response in the placenta, termed chronic villitis, is associated with many fetal complications, including stillbirth, growth restriction and preeclampsia, as well as neurological impairment diagnosed in early childhood. Dr. Enninga and her team are developing novel methods for diagnosing placental inflammation during gestation and looking for clues as to why these maternal cells become activated in the first place.
- Systemic regulation of the maternal immune system. Dr. Enninga is working to understand how mothers' immune systems adapt to carry semi-allogeneic fetuses by studying mechanisms of tolerance and reactivation throughout gestation. She is especially interested in blood biomarkers related to the immune system that can predict the status of a pregnancy prior to symptoms such as miscarriage or preterm birth. One biomarker she is particularly interested in is cell-free fetal DNA, which is released into the maternal circulation and may interact with the mother's immune cells to initiate inflammatory responses, especially those controlling the onset of labor.
- Disparities based on the sex of the fetus. As many gestational complications are associated with different risks based on whether the mother is carrying a male or female fetus, Dr. Enninga seeks to understand the role the maternal immune system plays in responding to a male versus a female fetus during pregnancy. Taking a sex-specific approach to prenatal care may lead to more-effective management strategies and healthier pregnancies.
Significance to patient care
The goal of Dr. Enninga's research is to develop a deeper understanding of the immune system during uncomplicated pregnancies to predict, respond to and manage adverse pregnancy outcomes more efficiently and effectively. Dr. Enninga works with a collaborative team of scientists and clinicians with the shared objective of improving fetal and maternal health.
- Young Investigator Basic Science Award, Abbott Nutrition, 2019
- K-12 Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health Research (BIRCWH) Scholar, Office of Research on Women's Health, 2017
- Associate Consultant I-Research, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology
- Associate Consultant I-Research, Department of Immunology
- Assistant Professor of Immunology
- Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Predoctoral Student Clinical and Translational Science, Programs, Mayo Graduate School, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine