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Pinning Down Preeclampsia, a Serious Pregnancy Disorder

Researcher brings clinical knowledge of birth into the lab 
By Delia O’Hara

IRINA BUHIMSCHI, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology (OB-GYN) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Medicine, who researches preeclampsia and other disorders of pregnancy, says she believes in serendipity, both in her work and in life. But vast amounts of toil and thought have also gone into the discoveries she has made, and the novel treatments she has developed, over the course of her career.

Dr. Buhimschi was recently named UIC’s associate vice chancellor for clinical research, overseeing research involving human subjects, including clinical trials.

“My first job is principal investigator (PI),” she says, and her experience gives her insight in “supporting our PIs so they can be more effective doing what they love to do.”

Dr. Buhimschi, who began her career as an OB-GYN clinician, has been at UIC since 2019, and is the director of both the OB-GYN research divi- sion and UIC’s perinatal research laboratory. “My clinical training brings a very different perspective into a basic science laboratory,” she says.

Through serendipity, and assiduous investigation, her team discovered that preeclampsia, a leading cause of preterm birth that is potentially deadly for both mothers and babies, is actually one of a group of diseases caused by misfolded proteins, which includes Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), among others.

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