Preeclampsia, a hypertensive disorder, is estimated to affect 5% to 10% of pregnancies. An initiating factor in the development of the disease is placental hypoxia. Using photoacoustic imaging, we have successfully monitored longitudinal, in vivo placental oxygenation in normal pregnancy and the reduced uterine perfusion pressure (RUPP) model of preeclampsia. Our current aim is to investigate the effect two potential therapies for preeclampsia have on placental hypoxia and maternal/fetal outcome.
When combined with contrast agents, photoacoustic imaging can be used to investigate the transport of key molecules across the placental barrier. For example, placental transport of folate, a critical nutrient for development, may be altered in the presence of specific medications. How the presence of specific medications changes the folate available to the fetus is being studied with our imaging techniques. This work is funded by a Research Competitiveness Subprogram grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents.
Photoacoustic imaging opens a new path to assess medical conditions where in vivo measurements are critical. Our aim is to study light delivery systems, the interaction of light with human placental tissue, and improve the depth resolution of photoacoustic imaging. Successful detection of placental hypoxia will allow us to noninvasively monitor the effect of placental ischemia during human pregnancy. The goal of this project is to develop methods to use photoacoustic imaging to monitor placental oxygenation in a clinical setting.