Roshanak Rahimian, PharmD, MSc, PhD, professor of physiology and pharmacology was awarded a $302,428 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for the study entitled, “Diabetes, Estrogen and Endothelial Dysfunction.” The NIH grant allows Dr. Rahimian to continue her research on the vascular effects of estrogen. She contributes the experience and expertise gained from two decades of working in the field of estrogen and vascular reactivity to her role as principle investigator. “I have been working on the area of women’s health since I started working on my PhD project at University of British Columbia back in 1995,” said Dr. Rahimian.
lation-based reports providing statistical evidence that premenopausal females become vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases in presence of diabetes,” said Dr. Rahimian. “Despite the sex-associated differences in physiological processes and functions, as well as pathological development and progression of diseases, research has predominantly involved male subjects and many knowledge gaps and paradoxes still remain.”
According to the World Health Organization diabetes affects more than 400 million people worldwide, over half of whom are women, and the number of diabetic patients is estimated to rise by more than 50 percent within 20 years [International Diabetes Federation, Diabetes Atlas, 7th Edition, 2015]. Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) is the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in diabetic patients.
According to Dr. Rahimian, “The risk for CVD is lower in premenopausal women compared to age-matched men. This difference disappears in the postmenopausal years and is presumably related to the reduced levels of female sex hormones, in general, and estrogen, in particular. However, premenopausal women with diabetes not only lose this sex-based cardiovascular protection, they actually experience a higher relative risk of CVD compared to diabetic men, which suggests that diabetes abolishes some of the beneficial effects of estrogen. Given this epidemiological evidence, the question arises as to what mechanisms underlie the loss of sex-mediated vasoprotection in diabetic women. This proposal will explore the basis for the loss of sex-based cardiovascular protection.”
While there has been extensive research into diabetes in males, much less is known about how diabetes affects the risk of cardiovascular diseases for females. Dr. Rahimian shares, “The NIH has been recently directing basic and clinical scientists to consider potential sex differences and perform their studies using both male and female subjects. My laboratory has made significant contributions to the study of sex differences during this era. We previously reported sex differences in vascular dysfunction in a model of type 1 diabetes (T1D), a project which was also supported by NIH from 2009 through 2013. However, the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes (T2D) may differ from that seen in T1D, and it is known that the incidence of T2D is rapidly increasing worldwide.” Dr. Rahimian explains, “Over the past decade, obesity and diabetes have reached epidemic proportions in developed countries and has become one of the most serious and challenging health problems in the 21st century. Therefore, we proposed to examine vascular function in arteries using an established obesity-induced T2D model. The knowledge gained from this proposal will ultimately enhance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the vascular dysfunction in diabetic premenopausal women. The enhanced insight into these mechanisms is expected to eventually also be beneficial for the male population.”
Dr. Rahimian emphasizes the collaborative nature of research. She elaborates, “I couldn’t have received this grant without the support of my school and university, and my dedicated past and current graduate, undergraduate and pharmacy students. As well as, my outstanding collaborators Dr. Leigh Anderson at Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, Dr. Peter Havel at University of California, Davis, who provided us with a novel and validated model of type 2 diabetes, and Dr. Linda Shortliffe at Stanford University, the consultant on this study. I also appreciate the excellent support of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at Pacific.”
By Anne Marie H. Bergthold