Tracey L. Weissgerber, Ph.D., focuses her research on the pregnancy complication preeclampsia. Her goal is to understand why women develop preeclampsia and why women with a history of preeclampsia are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and other health problems later in life.
Dr. Weissgerber's research combines epidemiologic studies with mechanistic vascular physiology studies. These studies provide information about the risk profile of women who have had preeclampsia and other forms of hypertension in pregnancy. Dr. Weissgerber seeks to determine how this risk profile changes throughout pregnancy and in the months and years after delivery.
- Vascular health in preeclampsia. As a vascular physiologist, Dr. Weissgerber uses noninvasive tests and circulating biomarkers to examine endothelial function, glycocalyx integrity and vascular stiffness. These studies provide critical information about how vascular health changes during a pregnancy complicated by preeclampsia, and whether vascular problems persist months and years after delivery.
- Epidemiology. Dr. Weissgerber studies cardiovascular health months, years and decades after pregnancy in women with a history of preeclampsia and other hypertensive pregnancy disorders. Previous studies have focused on peripheral arterial disease, hypertension and uric acid. Her research also seeks to determine whether brothers and sisters of women who have had hypertension in pregnancy are more likely to develop hypertension and cardiovascular disease later in life.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Weissgerber hopes her research will help identify new contributing mechanisms of preeclampsia that lead to hypertension and cardiovascular disease years after delivery. In order to develop effective strategies to prevent hypertension and cardiovascular disease, researchers must first understand what risk factors are common among women who have had preeclampsia and how these risk factor profiles change over time. In addition, understanding the mechanisms that link preeclampsia with future hypertension and cardiovascular disease may lead to new strategies for preventing hypertension and cardiovascular disease in other high-risk patients.