Research at the MGH is interwoven throughout more than 30 departments, centers and units, and is conducted with the support and guidance of the MGH Research Institute. The Research Roundup is a monthly series highlighting studies, news and events.

History of Kidney Disease Linked to Pregnancy Complications

Pregnant mothers with a history of severe kidney injury may have a higher risk of complications such as preeclampsia that can be hazardous for both mother and baby. This can be true even if they tested normal for kidney function prior to becoming pregnant.

It has previously been known that women with current kidney disease have a higher rate of complications during pregnancy, but this is the first time the risk has been indentified in patients who appear to have recovered.

The study compared 105 women with a history of kidney disease who gave birth at the MGH between 1998 and 2007 with 25,640 women with no history of disease.

Despite testing normal for kidney function, women with a history of the disease had a 19 percent higher chance of developing preeclampsia and a 13 percent higher change of needing a cesarean section. Their babies were also likely to be small for their gestational age and to require intensive care treatment upon delivery.

In the short term, the study results should help to increase awareness of the risk and lead to additional monitoring during pregnancy. Researchers also may seek to develop strategies to reduce the risk.

Jessica Sheehan Tangren, MD, of the Division of Nephrology, is lead author of the study.

Study Provides New Hope for Long-Term Recovery from Eating Disorders

There is encouraging news for women who are struggling with debilitating eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Time is on your side.

A recent MGH research study suggests that two-thirds of women suffering from these disorders will eventually recover over period of two decades – a recovery rate that is almost twice that of previous studies that examined shorter time frames.

The long-term study tracked 246 participants beginning in 1987 and continued for a period of 20 years or more.

At the end of the first decade, only 31.4 percent of women with anorexia had recovered, compared to 68.2 percent recovery in women with bulimia. After the second decade, however, the recovery rate for anorexia doubled to 62.8 percent while bulimia recovery rates remained the same. The criteria for recovery was going a year without symptoms.

While the long-term results are encouraging, the study’s authors say seeking early treatment for eating disorders is crucial in setting the groundwork for recovery.

Kamryn Eddy, PhD, of the MGH Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program, is corresponding author of the report. 

Study Reveals Genetic Underpinnings of Sleep Disorders

Researchers may be closer to understanding the biological basis of sleep disorders, thanks to a large scale study of 112,000 people from the UK Biobank.

A research team from the MGH and the University of Manchester (UK) used the biobank information to compare participants’ self reports of sleep disorders with their genetic profiles. They were able to identify – for the first time – areas of the human genome associated with insomnia, daytime sleepiness and excessive sleeping.

The team also identified genetic links between sleep disorders and other medical conditions. The strongest correlation was between insomnia and restless legs syndrome – a nervous disorder that leads to a strong urge to move the legs, which is often worse at night and can interfere with sleeping.

Researchers also found correlations between longer sleep duration and schizophrenia risk, and between excessive daytime sleepiness and risk of obesity.

By identifying and targeting the biological mechanisms of sleep disorders, it may be possible to expand the range of sleep therapies beyond sedatives, investigators say.

Jacqueline M. Lane, PhD, from the Center for Human Genetic Research, is lead author of the study.

Read more articles from the 01/13/17 Hotline issue.