University of Vermont

University Communications

Hypertension and Pregnancy Researcher Receives Joseph B. Warshaw, M.D. Scholarship Award

Release Date: 07-16-2007

Author: Jennifer Nachbur
Phone: 802/656-7875 Fax: 802-656-3961

University of Vermont sixth-year M.D.-Ph.D. student Anna Euser, a native of Colorado, has received the 2007 Dean Joseph B. Warshaw, M.D. Scholarship Award.

Dean of the UVM College of Medicine from 2000 until his death in December 2003, Dr. Joseph Warshaw was a passionate believer in the importance of humanism and science. The award, which commemorates Dean Warshaw’s vision to formally establish the M.D.-Ph.D. program at UVM, provides financial support for an M.D.-Ph.D. student who has performed the most outstanding thesis research. The fund for the award was established through gifts from Warshaw’s family, friends, and the faculty, staff, students and alumni of the UVM College of Medicine.

Euser presented her research, titled “In Vivo Studies of the Cerebral Circulation in Rats during Hypertension and Pregnancy,” and received the award at the M.D.-Ph.D. Research Day at the UVM Medical Education Center on July 13. The award presentation was made by Dr. Warshaw’s widow Cynthia Warshaw.

Preeclampsia is a term that describes a hypertensive disorder that can occur during pregnancy and is marked by symptoms including water retention in the feet, legs and hands, high blood pressure and protein in the urine. The condition, which occurs in five to eight percent of all pregnancies, is one of the leading causes of premature births, and if left untreated, results in eclampsia, which can cause seizures, coma and even death.

In order to learn more about eclampsia, Euser worked in the laboratory of Marilyn Cipolla, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology, to conduct research on how pregnancy affects blood circulation in the brain during normal pregnancy in a rat model. Research regarding how pregnancy affects the blood vessels and organs, such as the kidneys, is well-established, but research on pregnancy’s effect on the brain’s blood vessels is less common and few, if any, studies have ever examined this process in female, pregnant animal models. Specifically, Euser examined the autoregulation of cerebral blood vessels – a process that allows the vessels to change the flow of blood during changes of pressure by altering their diameters, including constricting when the body’s blood pressure is elevated and dilating when blood pressure is lowered. She investigated the upper limit of autoregulation and what is called the blood-brain barrier permeability. A special element unique to the cells that line the many small blood vessels of the brain, the blood-brain barrier prevents material in the blood from passing between cells and into the brain. Euser’s research showed that though the upper limit was not affected by pregnancy, the amount of cerebral edema – or fluid – formation as a consequence of hypertension was increased during pregnancy. Her results proved that pregnancy may predispose the brain to edema formation.

Euser, who lives in Burlington, is also the recipient of a 2006-07 American Heart Association Northeast Affiliate Predoctoral Fellowship and received a Society for Gynecologic Investigation President's Presenter Award in 2006. Euser received a B.A. in chemistry from Colorado College in 2002 and defended her Ph.D. at UVM in May 2007. She is scheduled to receive her M.D. from UVM in 2009.