"Only 8% of primary care physicians, 13% of OB/GYNs and 17% of cardiologists are aware that more women than men die each year from heart disease."
—American Heart Association
THI's Women's Center research integrates the best in basic science, clinical science and public health science to address cardiovascular health issues that cause untold suffering among women, generate unsustainable economic costs and are largely preventable. Historically, medical research in this field has not focused on women specifically, and more often than not, women have been restricted from clinical trials. Even in more contemporary clinical research, women have played a relatively small role. Yet, we know women often display different symptoms than men and react to medications and certain treatments differently than men. One of our principal goals is to address these and other gender disparities.
- We are collaborating with various partners to create a one-of-a-kind clinical database for comparison and cross-referencing by researchers and physician scientists. This rich data will allow a comprehensive view of all the factors at work in women with cardiovascular disease, throughout the course of the disease, including the early stages when a woman might not yet be aware of symptoms. We expect to mine integrated data from lab tests, echocardiograms, other procedures, blood samples and patient outcomes to help us develop more effective strategies for early intervention, prevention and treatments.
- In collaboration with St. Luke's Episcopal Health Charities, we are focusing on more effective education and prevention, and meaningful assessment and treatment, to the underserved communities in the greater Houston region. Specifically, the research team is looking at the change in risk factors over time in Harris County to determine which interventions are working, which aren't and what is causing increases in incidences of cardiovascular disease in underserved women. We expect this research will allow us to create a program that can be copied or modified and implemented in this region and anywhere else in the world.
- In collaboration with Dr. Eric Boerwinkle, Director, Human Genetics Center, Institute for Molecular Medicine, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Dr. Lorraine Frazier, Nancy B. Willerson Distinguished Professor University of Texas Health Science Center School of Nursing and TexGen (a genetic research collaboration among institutions in the Texas Medical Center), our research is also focused on identifying the genes underlying gender-based differences in symptoms, treatment responses and prevention methods for heart and vascular diseases. Dr. Boerwinkle has already identified genetic variations that raise the risk for common disease factors (hypertension, atherosclerosis) and outcomes (stroke). Dr. Frazier's work and depression screening data in patients with heart disease will enable us to further explore the risk for depression and related heart disease outcomes in women. Because cardiovascular disease is caused by a complex interplay of factors including genetics, a large and diverse collection of genetic samples is required to effectively sort them out. The extensive patient follow-up and clinical and epidemiological information that is part of TexGen's sample collection further increases their value. We will be able to expand the representation of women and ethnic groups in the samples, identify who is particularly at risk for the various cardiovascular diseases as well as which treatments will work best for them.
- Dr. Paolo Angelini, Medical Director & Principal Investigator of THI's Center for Coronary Artery Anomalies, is conducting a clinical study of patients with Takotsubo, a transient heart ailment that affects mostly post-menopausal women and can cause sudden death, without previous history or evidence of cardiac disease, during times of high stress (i.e., a divorce, job loss, etc.). Educating gynecologists and primary care physicians about this ailment and enlisting their participation in this kind of study will increase our knowledge about this condition, and we hope it will eventually help reduce the number of preventable deaths.
- Dr. Roberta Bogaev, Medical Director, Heart Failure and Transplant, has recently completed an 18-month clinical study on the differences in outcomes between men and women implanted with a heart-assist device called the HeartMate II. The soon-to-be-published study involving almost 500 patients, has shown the continous-flow pumping device is a viable therapeutic option as a bridge to transplantation for both men and women. The device was shown as especially beneficial for women with advanced heart failure because many of them, due to their generally smaller body size, cannot receive the larger pulsating pumps. The study results also show that the HeartMate II improves heart function and quality of life in both sexes and can be used safely in women who require extended mechanical support while awaiting a suitable donor heart.
- In collaboration with Dr. Lorraine Frazier, our research is also focused on identifying the genetic and environmental interactions in individuals with heart disease and depression. Dr. Frazier's research on depression and inflammation in heart disease will allow us to harvest existing information for clinic-based observational studies into issues such as whether women with cardiovascular disease are more likely to have depression and how depression affects outcomes, and then to rapidly develop an intervention to address the problem. Her work will allow us to look at underlying gender-based differences in depression symptoms and treatment responses and prevention methods for heart disease. Dr. Frazier is the project director for TexGen. Her observational research involves identifying which individuals with cardiovascular disease who are depressed are more likely to have subsequent cardiac events. Her work also includes testing an intervention to address the problem.
What is a Clinical Trial?
Stem Cell Center enrolling patients for clinical trials.
Updated May 2011