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Cardiomyopathy is a disease that affects the heart muscle. In dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) the heart muscle becomes thin, the left ventricle becomes enlarged (dilated), and the heart is unable to squeeze efficiently, reducing the amount of blood that is pumped to the body. Pediatric dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) affects 1 in 100,000 children, and the prognosis for this disease is very poor. Interestingly, girls with DCM have worse outcomes than boys, and it is unclear why. Dr. Woulfe will study a protein that is found in higher levels in girls with DCM who require a heart transplant compared to girls with DCM who are stable. By determining whether this protein impacts the function of the heart’s muscle cells, Dr. Woulfe aims to help develop therapies specific to girls and boys with DCM.
BIRCWH project title: Determining midkine's role in female heart failure pathology
Current research focus: My current research is focused on determining mechanisms underlying age and sex differences in subcellular cardiomyocyte function.
How Dr. Woulfe became interested in this work: When I started my graduate work studying the effect of chemotherapeutics on heart function, I was struck by the fact that we were only studying the effects in male animals. I made it a goal to study sex differences in heart function in my own laboratory. When I began my postdoctoral studies looking at age specific differences in heart failure, I found that there are important sex differences in pediatric heart failure. I have found both age and sex specific differences in cardiomyocyte function and these differences intrigue me. My goal is to better elucidate mechanisms that drive these differences in order to better tailor therapies for patients with heart failure. I have found both and and sex specific differences in cardiomyocyte function and these differences intrigue me. My goal is to better elucidate mechanisms that drive these differences in order to better tailor therapies for patients with heart failure.
Clinical significance of this research: My research is clinically significant because understanding age and sex specific differences in regulation of cardiomyocyte function will provide important insight into therapies for heart failure patients.
Relevance of this work to women's health or sex/gender differences: My focus on understanding mechanisms that lead to sex differences in cardiomyocyte function is critical to better understand how to target therapies to men and women with cardiac dysfunction.