Vascular Biology Behind Healthier Pregnancies and Babies
Dr. Chandrasekhar Yallampalli’s extensive body of research is advancing our understanding of how the body’s vascular system adapts to pregnancy, providing new hope for the treatment and prevention of pregnancy complications for mothers and babies.
“During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume increases by about 50 percent, without increasing blood pressure,” explained Dr. Yallampalli. “The body’s blood vessels relax and become less rigid to accommodate the increased blood volume. If we know what happens normally, we can better understand why and how these vascular adaptations sometimes fail, causing hypertension, preeclampsia and other prenatal conditions.”
This lifelong research focus was “completely serendipitous,” he noted. “Early in my career, the findings of a study I was doing on preterm labor failed to support my theory. It was my first grant. I was so disappointed – until I realized I’d stumbled upon a vascular adaptation. I wanted to learn more. Our study became a model for preeclampsia research and I’ve been a vascular biologist ever since.”
Over the next 25 years, he and his team discovered some of the fundamental mechanisms of vascular adaption. The grant for these studies has been continuously funded since 1997.
“Today we’re examining the role of complement, part of the body’s immune system, in causing preeclampsia, with the hope of developing therapies to prevent the hypertension and preterm delivery associated with this complication,” he explained.
“We’re also studying fetal programming of adult health, specifically how a low-protein diet during pregnancy results in a fetus ‘hard-wired’ to develop adult hypertension and diabetes. It’s important for pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant to understand that with good nutrition, including sufficient protein, they can give their child the gift of good health.”
His third research focus is gestational diabetes and understanding the mechanisms causing the abnormal amount of lipids in the mother’s blood, which travel across the placenta causing a large baby with long-term health issues.