Researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center may have found a new way to protect the heart health of children born to mothers with preeclampsia. And the mainly male-used medication in the experimental therapy may surprise you!

A preeclampsia diagnosis is one potential pregnancy problem that no mama-to-be ever wants to hear. As if the excessive swelling isn’t painful enough, add in the skyrocketing blood pressure (and of course, protein-filled pee) and pregnancy can go from sweet to scary. Given the possibility of serious complications, for both mother and baby, there’s no shortage of research into this pregnancy-induced issue.

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Even though science is looking for causes, cures and any other treatment that could work, there are still plenty of what if’s. Along with the potential for immediate complications, children born to mothers with this condition are often at more risk for developing high blood pressure and suffering a stroke later in life.

Doctoral student and lead author of the study, Hannah Turbeville, said, “The ultimate goal of our work is to improve the long-term health of women and children affected by preeclampsia.” Turbeville also added, “There are limited guidelines for addressing the health risks to these groups, and we hope not only to bring attention to these risks but also to propel research forward that will inform preventative interventions.”

So what did Turbeville’s research find? Using rat models (not human subjects), Turbeville and her team lowered blood pressure in the offspring by acting on the nitric oxide pathway. If you’re wondering what this means, how the researchers did it and what the rat modeling has to do with humans, here goes: The theory is that by reducing blood pressure in rat offspring, the same could be true for human offspring of mothers with preeclampsia. To do this, the researchers used the drug sildenafil citrate. If that sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because you’ve probably heard about the medication before by its brand name—Viagra.

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Yes, the research proposes that the ED drug Viagra (it also has other uses already) may help to reduce potential cardiovascular risks in children born to women diagnosed with preeclampsia. But don’t expect to see this treatment immediately. As of now it’s still in the rat-modeled trials.

—Erica Loop

 

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