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Researchers at Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) have been awarded a four-year $3.7 million grant from the American Heart Association (AHA) Go Red for Women Research Network to examine whether certain pregnancy-related blood vessel changes can uncover mechanisms of later-life cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women, identify women at highest risk, and guide new interventions to help them.
The causes of heart disease, which damages the inner walls of the blood vessels and can lead to spasms and decrease blood flow to the heart muscle, known as microvascular dysfunction, are unclear, said principal investigator, Carl Hubel, PhD, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and MWRI investigator. During pregnancy, profound metabolic and cardiovascular changes occur, putting extra stress on a woman’s body and requiring the heart and blood vessels to work harder. Researchers believe that studying these cardiovascular changes may reveal early mechanisms of CVD.
“This grant is an important next step for our research team in the ongoing assessment of using pregnancy as a lens to understand CVD in women throughout the life span,” explained Dr. Hubel. “Microvascular dysfunction is a devastating public health challenge because almost two-thirds of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have had no previous symptoms. We hope to build on the research of our previous studies by identifying mechanisms of CVD in women that are unmasked or perhaps affected by adverse pregnancy outcomes. By examining these relationships, we aim to discover early heart disease risks in women as well as the causes.”
In addition to Magee, four other centers make up the AHA Go Red for Women Research Network: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, University of California, San Diego and New York University Medical Center.