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Leading experts converge at SU to tackle preeclampsia
Author: FMHS Marking & Communication / FGGW Bemarking & Kommunikasie – Wilma Stassen
Published: 13/02/2023

​A slew of world-renowned experts in the field of preeclampsia recently converged at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) in Cape Town to unite against this deadly condition which claims the lives of more than 60 000 women and 500 000 babies worldwide each year.

“It is very significant that so many leading international experts are joining us here in South Africa where there is a high burden of preeclampsia," said Prof Cathy Cluver, a subspecialist in Maternal-Foetal Medicine with the FMHS, who, together with Prof Lina Bergman, convened this high-level event. Well over 100 local and international experts from four continents have come together to try and find ways to better prevent and treat this condition. Visitors included professors from Harvard University, Kings College, Imperial College, Charité University, Oxford University, Manchester University, Melbourne University, Uppsala University and Gothenburg University.

“Your presence here is a testament to the importance of this issue and your collective commitment to finding solutions," Professor Nico Gey van Pittius, FMHS Vice Dean: Research and Internationalisation told delegates during his welcoming address. “This event provides us with a unique opportunity to come together and share our knowledge, experience and best practises in addressing preeclampsia."

Preeclampsia is a serious disease where a woman develops high blood pressure during the second half of pregnancy. The placenta releases harmful factors into the maternal bloodstream that damage the mother's blood vessels. This in turn affects major organs, such as the kidneys, liver, lungs and brain, and can progress to seizures and death of the mother and baby. There is no medical cure for preeclampsia and currently the only treatment is to deliver the baby and remove the diseased placenta. In the case of a preterm pregnancy, delivery results in premature birth, which can cause health problems, or even death, for the baby.

“The purpose of the conference is to facilitate international and local collaborations, and to build a network to try and better understand, prevent and treat this disease," said Cluver. “There has not been much progress in the field of preeclampsia for some time, and that so many leading experts from around the world came together to focus on this topic, shows that there is a global effort to start taking the disease seriously."

Cluver is currently leading the largest treatment trial ever in the world for preterm preeclampsia. This trial will confirm if the drug metformin is the first drug that can ameliorate preterm preeclampsia. Together with Bergman, they also run the PROVE biobank where data and samples from patients with and without preeclampsia are collected to facilitate research to better understand preeclampsia and to identify potential risk factors.

For more information on their research, visit: