Preeclampsia, a hypertensive disorder peculiar to pregnancy, is a systemic syndrome that appears to originate in the placenta and is characterized by widespread maternal endothelial dysfunction. Until recently, the molecular pathogenesis of phenotypic preeclampsia was largely unknown, but recent observations support the hypothesis that altered expression of placental anti-angiogenic factors are responsible for the clinical manifestations of the disease. Soluble Flt1 and soluble endoglin, secreted by the placenta, are increased in the maternal circulation weeks before the onset of preeclampsia. These anti-angiogenic factors produce systemic endothelial dysfunction, resulting in hypertension, proteinuria, and the other systemic manifestations of preeclampsia. The molecular basis for placental dysregulation of these pathogenic factors remains unknown, and as of 2011 the role of angiogenic proteins in early placental vascular development was starting to be explored. The data linking angiogenic factors to preeclampsia have exciting clinical implications, and likely will transform the detection and treatment of preeclampsia. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.
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