Published: 25-09-2014 16:06 | Updated: 25-09-2014 16:06

The Gender Grants

This year the Centre for Gender Medicine has awarded a grant to four outstanding research projects that account for sex and gender difference in our understanding of Science and medicine in the field of cardiovascular health.

The CfGM assigned the Gender Grants to outstanding doctors/researchers at Karolinska Institutet which implement sex/gender perspective in their research (clinical and preclinical) at the Cardiology Unit at Karolinska University Hospital..

CfGM and the Cardiology unit, both parts of the department of Medicine at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital, have a long history of mutual collaboration. Cardiovascular research within the unit endorses/aims the inclusion of sex and gender analysis in clinical and preclinical research to apply translational approach towards cardiovascular disease models in animals, disease mechanisms and/or treatments in humans. Moreover, educational projects at different levels focusing on cardiovascular disease and sex/gender aspects are of importance.

The winners were announced the 25th of June, and each was awarded between 100-150k SEK.

The Scientists

Dr. Camilla Hage, Nurse, PhD

Project: Bio-makers of altered metabolism in patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction

Dr. Hage conducts clinical research in the area of cardiology since 1998. She defended her thesis on cardiovascular disease and diabetes in 2012, and she has already worked as project coordinator in a number of clinical research projects. Dr. Hage presently holds a PostDoc position in the group of Lars H. Lund, Associate Professor, in the Department of Medicine in Solna.

Dr. Hage research focuses on patients with hart failure and preserved ejection fraction (HF/pEF), 50% of the total heart failure registered today. These patients have compromised left ventricular function, and though their numbers are on the raise, our understanding of this disease mechanism remains unknown.

The role of sex and gender is especially important in these patients as they predominately are elderly females with diverse co-morbidities. The Gender Grant will be a major contribution to Dr Hage’s research on underlying the mechanisms of HF/pEF that may contribute to new treatment strategies for a group of patients in whom pharmacological options today are scarce.

Dr. Alexey Shemyakin, MD, PhD

Project: Red blood cell arginase activity in patients with acute coronary syndrome: a gender perspective

Dr. Shemyakin obtained his MD from St. Petersburg State University, Russia in 2002, and later specialized in cardiology. He obtained his PhD in 2010 at Karolinska Institute with his studies on the regulation of vascular function and glucose metabolism in diabetes. Dr. Shemyakin currently holds a PostDoct position in the group of Dr. John Pernow, at the Department of Medicine in Solna.

Dr. Shemyakin research aims to improve the natural production of nitric oxide form the body, as preliminary studies indicates that this signal can improve vascular function in patients with coronary artery disease and concomitant diabetes.

The Gender Grant will provide Dr. Shemyakin with the right tools to implement gender-specific approach in his research, and to promote sex balance throughout the project. In particular, the research project will address the difference in the regulation of the enzyme arginase in female and male patients with cardiovascular disease, and study its importance for the development of myocardial infarction.

Linda Mellbin, MD, PhD, FESC

Project: Testosterone in patients with glucose abnormalities and acute myocardial infarction and in matched controls

Dr. Mellbin obtained her MD at Karolinska Institutet in 2000, and later specialised in internal medicine and cardiology. After service at the Oskarshamn´s hospital for 5 years, she joined the Department of Cardiology at Karolinska University Hospital in 2005, where she currently works as cardiologist at the Coronary Care Unit since 2009. She obtained her PhD in 2010 with her studies on glucose-control therapies and biomarkers in myocardial infarction and diabetes.

Dr. Mellbin has continued her research in the field of biomarkers, in particular related to hormonal systems. She participates in several clinical trials on diabetes and cardiovascular disease as investigator or national coordinator.

In her project, Dr. Mellbin will study different aspects of glucose abnormalities and cardiovascular disease. In particular, the Gender Grant will promote the sex and gender aspect of the study, which is always taken into consideration, for example when describing levels of different biomarkers. The financed study, called TEGAMI, aims to explore the impact on cardiovascular prognosis of the sex-hormones testosterone and estradiol in patients with acute myocardial infarction.

Sarah Costantino

Project: Epigenetic signatures as a predictor of vascular risk in men and women with prediabetes

Dr. Costantino obtained her degree in Chemistry and Pharmacy in 2008 at "Federico II" - University of Naples. She received her PhD in 2012 in Experimental Medicine, and worked for two years as research fellow in the Institute of Physiology of the University of Zurich, until 2012. She currently holds a PostDoc fellowship in the Department of Medicine in KI. In 2013, Dr. Costantino received the European Society of Cardiology Young Investigator Award.

There is insufficient knowledge that account for sex in the field of cardiovascular prevention, and sex difference in both pathophysiology and biological risk factors might explain distinct prevalence rates, symptom profiles, and, more importantly, medical outcomes. The Gender Grant will help Dr. Constantino to unravel novel mechanisms linking sex diversities with different types of cardiovascular disease.

In particular, Dr. Constantino will study the different epigenetic changes that may predispose to cardiovascular risk in female and male. Despite emerging evidence suggests that epigenetics may have potential clinical implications, no previous studies have investigated whether these signatures may provide information on the individual risk profile in females and males. Modifications of the epigenetic landscape may help to identify cardiovascular risks to implement an early therapeutic intervention.