Skip to main content

New genetic research sheds light on the association of pre-eclampsia with cardiovascular diseases

Published on 8.6.2023
Tampere University
A couple holding hands so that hands form a heart.Photo: Pixabay/
A new wide-ranging Finnish study on the hereditary risk factors of pre-eclampsia showed that the pregnancy disorder and hypertension share many of the same genetic risk factors. This means that women suffering from pre-eclampsia should pay special attention to their lifestyle to avoid chronic hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.

The study directed by Tampere University identified 19 genetic loci associated with pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy. The study was based on data on some 300,000 women.

The research results published in the prestigious JAMA Cardiology journal revealed different types of genetic risk factors that predispose pregnant women to pre-eclampsia. Most of the risks are related to genetic loci that have previously been associated with blood pressure traits. In addition, the study identified various genes related to the physiological changes during pregnancy, such as ones related to the development of the placenta, and the regulation of kidney functions.

“Many of the genes we associated with disease risk are known to influence several different symptoms found in pre-eclampsia. For example, the forms of the NPPA gene that we have linked to the risk of pre-eclampsia are known to affect blood pressure, but the gene is also thought to be related to physiological changes in the uterus during pregnancy,” says Postdoctoral Research Fellow Jaakko Tyrmi from Tampere University who was the main analyst in the study. 

Pregnancy is a window to a woman’s health in later life

Pre-eclampsia is a vascular disorder that occurs during pregnancy whose typical symptoms are high blood pressure and elevated protein in urine. Pre-eclampsia is also often associated with poor foetal growth. Some 3% of pregnant women suffer from pre-eclampsia.

“Our results indicate that pre-eclampsia can be the first sign of a hereditary disposition to cardiovascular diseases. Mothers should therefore treat pre-eclampsia as a valuable sign that gives an opportunity to influence their subsequent morbidity with lifestyle changes,” says Professor Hannele Laivuori from Tampere University and Tampere University Hospital who was the principal investigator.

The study compared the genomic data from 17,000 women suffering from pre-eclampsia with data from 270,000 control individuals. A significant part of the patients were Finns: either participants in the FINNPEC study focused on pre-eclampsia or participants in the FinnGen genetic study for which they had donated samples to biobanks.

“It is important to note that pre-eclampsia is a multifactorial pregnancy complication. There are also other causes and all women with prior pre-eclampsia do not carry an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. Identifying this individual variation and its biological causes is an important topic for further studies,” Professor Laivuori emphasises. It is also important to study the effect of lifestyle changes.

The FINNPEC (Finnish Genetics of Pre-eclampsia Consortium) cohort has been funded by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, Academy of Finland, and several other Finnish funding agencies.

Research article

Tyrmi, J.S., Kaartokallio, T., Lokki, A.I. et al. Genetic Risk Factors Associated With Preeclampsia and Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy. Jama Cardiol. Published online June 7, 2023.

Further information:

Postdoctoral Research Fellow Jaakko Tyrmi, 0400 606 182, jaakko.tyrmi [at]
Professor Hannele Laivuori, 050 415 4871, hannele.laivuori [at]