Pre-eclampsia and its related syndromes are significant causes of maternal and fetal death, but much remains unclear about the underlying disease mechanisms. Epidemiological research has consistently demonstrated a familial predisposition to pre-eclampsia, which has encouraged genetic research in this area. The goal is the discovery of susceptibility genes which will inform understanding of the pathophysiology of pre-eclampsia, and may prove to be targets for therapeutic or preventative strategies. This review examines the application of molecular technologies to the search for genetic clues in pre-eclampsia and emphasizes the importance of integrative approaches. The results of recent genome-wide linkage studies have been particularly encouraging, identifying a number of loci which merit closer examination. Candidate gene studies have proved less fruitful, generating conflicting and inconclusive results. Possible explanations and remedies for this deficiency are discussed with a view to stimulating closer collaboration between researchers in this field.

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