Vascular Immunology.

Our mission is to understand the causes and progression of pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure in pregnancy

and examine the links between high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in women, especially around the time of pregnancy.

The Vascular Immunology Group investigates the causes of pre-eclampsia through studying placentas and placental cells in the laboratory. We have been able to identify factors coming from
the placenta that lead to damage in the mothers’ blood vessels and how this interaction can affect high cholesterol and other substances known to increase the risk of blood vessel and heart disease.

What impact will this research have? 

The Vascular Immunology group has made several major discoveries about the relationship between high blood pressure in pregnancy and risks of heart disease and blood pressure in later life. This will influence the type of advice that is given to women after their pregnancy.

Current projects and goals

Our projects have a principal interest in understanding the causes and progression of pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure in pregnancy.

Immune system study

Dr Shikha Aggarwal has joined the team to investigate a potential new blood test for pre-eclampsia. She is looking at whether a certain type of antibody, which occurs during pregnancy, is a cause or an effect of pre-eclampsia. Her testing has the potential to provide a clue to the causes of early disease and could be added to our current testing for pre-eclampsia in women at greater risk. This study uses state-of-the-art heart and blood-vessel cell technology to look at toxins in pregnancy. Dr Aggarwal is a PhD student from the University of Western Sydney and practicing Nephrologist (Kidney Specialist) who is furthering her training at the HRI.

Pre-eclampsia anaesthetic study

Dr Suzanne Pears is looking at how to control blood pressure in mothers with pre-eclampsia by using different types of anaesthesia. Dr Pears is a PHD student from the University of a Sydney working at both the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital at the Heart Research Institute.

Toxic Placenta Study

Neroli Sunderland’s PhD project and the work of Gabrielle Bobek at the University of Western Sydney is investigating the toxic effect of poor blood supply on the placenta.

Dr Bei Xu continues to do fantastic work looking at the effect of calcium, blood pressure tablets, and even cholesterol on how placentas grow into the expecting mother’s blood vessels.

Cholesterol and the placenta

Dr Katrina Chau is using her PhD project to investigate ways in which the placenta is controlled by the good cholesterol in the blood stream. Heart Research institute.

Professor Annemarie Hennessy
Research group led by:
Research covers areas of:
Latest news

Meet the team: Zohra Kakall

PhD student Zohra Kakall has always been fascinated by whole body physiology and the integration between the brain and other bodily systems. This fascination drew her to the HRI High Blood Pressure Group - which focuses on the way that brain networks control airways, breathing and blood pressure - and led her on a research trip across Europe.

Current team update

Congratulations to Professor Annemarie Hennessy who was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to tertiary education, and to medical research.

Jun 08, 2015
Awards and Achievements
New work by Dr Bei Xu has investigated events that occur early in pregnancy, as the placenta establishes the food source for the growing embryo.
Amanda Davidson was awarded a medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in January 2015 for her services to maternal health, specifically her role as Chair of PEARLS, Preeclampsia Research Laboratories.
Our group won best clinical presentation at the International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy meeting in the USA.

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