SIU Med School Receives Federal Grant to Study Obstetrical Complications

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October 30, 2012

SIU Med School Receives Federal Grant to Study Obstetrical Complications

A faculty researcher at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield has been awarded a three-year federal grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a division of the National Institutes of Health, to study preeclampsia and intrauterine growth retardation, which are complications of pregnancy. The total budget for the grant is $436,500.

Donald S. Torry, Ph.D., professor and chair of medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology at SIU, is the principal investigator for the project. Primary collaborator on the project is Dr. Ronald J. Torry, professor and chair, Department of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Administrative Sciences at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and the research team includes Shrouq Alhajjaj, graduate student; Yue Guan, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow; Trenae Mann, research technician; and Timothy Murphy, graduate student.

Thousands of women and babies die or get very sick each year from a condition called preeclampsia, a life-threatening disorder that occurs during pregnancy. It is caused by the mother’s blood supply to the placenta being deficient so that the baby in the womb does not receive enough oxygen and nutrients to grow properly. The mother also develops high blood pressure. The research will study why placental growth factor is not being produced as it is in normal pregnancies, thus restricting the maternal blood vessels. The research will also study how inflammatory processes, which are also common during preeclampsia, contribute to malfunction of the placenta.
Results of the study are expected to provide a better understanding of mechanisms for normal vascular function during pregnancy and may suggest new treatment possibilities for preeclampsia and intrauterine growth retardation.

Torry’s research has been funded for 16 years by NICHD and the March of Dimes Foundation and now totals $2.5 million. His work has focused on placental growth factor and preeclampsia.

Torry joined the SIU faculty in 2000. He completed a three-year research fellowship in pathology at Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Mass. (1992).  Torry completed his doctoral degree in microbiology and immunology as well as his master’s and bachelor’s degrees at SIU Carbondale (1989, 1985, 1982).  

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