What is the glycocalyx?
The glycocalyx is a sugar and protein rich layer that covers the lining of blood vessels.
- Just like the Teflon coating in pans that keeps food from sticking, blood vessels have a layer of protection , called the “glycocalyx”, that when damaged can make it sticky for red blood cells.
- Glycocalyx damage is linked to cardiovascular disease, infection and aging.
- We think that this protective coating may be thinner or disrupted in women who get sick with preeclampsia in pregnancy and this disruption may remain after pregnancy.
What happens to the glycocalyx during pregnancy?
The Pathways Study would like to see:
- If there are differences in the glycocalyx during pregnancy and at one year post-partum in women with normal pregnancies or pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia, preterm birth or fetal growth restriction
- Whether there is shedding of the glycocalyx that can be detected in samples of blood and urine.
We will coordinate 2 visits. The first visit is in the hospital before you deliver your baby. The second visit is about one year after you have delivered.
How will we assess the glycocalyx?
- The Pathways Study will use a technique that allows us to look at small blood vessels under the tongue using a tiny video camera (see Fig. 1).
- A sterile cap is placed around the camera tip for hygiene.
- During the measurement the camera tip is gently held under the tongue similar to taking your temperature (see Fig. 2).
- The camera uses a green light. By placing the camera gently under the tongue, it becomes possible to visualize the small vessels and to make a series of short video recordings (see Fig. 2 and 3).
The measurement takes about 10 minutes.