Dr. Anuja Java Awarded Longer Life Foundation Grant to Study the Role of Complement Genetic Mutations in the Development of Preeclampsia

Anuja Java, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Nephrology, and Director of Kidney Transplant at the John Cochran VA Medical Center, was awarded a $50,000 renewable grant from the Longer Life Foundation to study why some patients develop severe preeclampsia during pregnancy and if that may be related to a defective complement system.

Dr. Java is a renowned physician-scientist who has been researching rare complement diseases and their involvement in kidney damage, including atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS), for over a decade.  Increasing evidence suggests that an excessive maternal systemic inflammatory response, due to overactivation of the complement system, may be involved in preeclampsia.

“I have noticed in my practice that patients with severe preeclampsia and/or those who developed kidney failure during pregnancy had an underlying defect in the complement system when we tested for it,” says Java.  “I therefore wanted to do a more comprehensive and thorough evaluation of these patients to see if we can identify them early on before they develop kidney problems.”

The excessive complement activation can occur due to genetic mutations in complement proteins that lead to too much complement at the wrong time in gestation.  Java noted that the findings in preeclampsia resemble the genetic kidney disease aHUS that occurs due to uncontrolled complement activation and causes blood clots to form in small blood vessels in the kidney.

Java will investigate the role of complement genetic mutations in the development of preeclampsia.  “We will assess for mutations in complement proteins in both the mother and the fetus.  Studying fetal mutations is important to understand the role of paternal genes in the risk for preeclampsia.”

A clearer understanding of the role of the complement system in preeclampsia will help identify patients who would benefit from anticomplement therapy, thereby improving short-and long-term outcomes for both mother and child and further facilitate the development of novel agents.

The Longer Life Foundation is a cooperative effort between Washington University School of Medicine and the Reinsurance Group of America and funds independent research into improving methods for predicting long-term mortality.  Its activities are coordinated through the Longer Life Center in the School of Medicine’s Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science.  

“This was my first time applying for the Longer Life Foundation grant and I am really thankful to the foundation for funding this pilot project,” says Java.   

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See more about Java’s research here.