Temple University researcher studying gender differences in how damaged hearts heal


Gender-based differences in how damaged hearts heal could explain the differences in survival rates between men and women with heart failure, according to Temple University researcher Deborah L. Crabbe, M.D. Past studies have reported a survival benefit afforded to women compared to men with heart failure. The reasons for this advantage aren't clear. But Crabbe believes that this difference is a functional one, relating to how the heart heals after injury, how it contracts and how it relaxes.

"If we could understand why women have this advantage, we could use that information to one day help both men and women with heart disease," said Crabbe, assistant professor of medicine and a member of the Cardiovascular Research Center at Temple University School of Medicine.

When the heart suffers damage or becomes diseased, it struggles to heal and resume normal functioning. Because the heart is a muscle, healing involves rebuilding. This process, known as cardiac remodeling, is a process of organ repair that may occur differently in men and women, and might explain a woman's survival advantage with heart failure.

To study this phenomenon in depth, Crabbe has received a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to support her project "Sex-Based Differences in Post Infarction Remodeling." This award is supported through Temple's department of physiology in collaboration with her mentor, Steven R. Houser, Ph.D., director of the Cardiovascular Research Center. The project builds on earlier research conducted by Crabbe in which she sought to understand the effect of chronic estrogen loss on cardiac responsiveness to angiotensin II stimulation using isolated hearts.

Crabbe's present study will test whether sex-based differences in cardiac remodeling occur and are mediated through estrogen's effects on activation of the renin-angiotensin system. The renin-angiotensin system is an important neuro-hormonal system involved in the cardiac remodeling process.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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