Improving heart health for older women

New funding from the National Institute on Aging will be used to examine biological drivers of and potential treatments for heart disease

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Heart attacks are the leading cause of death among postmenopausal women. New funding from the National Institute on Aging will enable Penn State researchers to explore the links between tiny receptors in our immune systems called inflammasomes and how/when cells die. These links may enable researchers to develop new therapies to treat and prevent heart disease in older women. 

Donna Korzick Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Donna Korzick, professor of physiology and kinesiology, will lead the research.

“Older women are less likely to survive their first heart attack and more likely to develop heart failure following their first heart attack when compared to men,” Korzick said. “Therapeutic interventions have been based on heart attack patterns in men, but outcomes are very different in women.

“Our project will help address fundamental biological differences between females and males in the immune response to heart attack,” Korzick continued. “Unfortunately, heart disease death rates continue to rise the U.S., with the greatest rate of increase seen in 2020 compared to the past 20 years.”

Prior research indicates that one specific inflammasome may contribute to heart attacks for older women. This research will inhibit the targeted inflammasome to protect the heart. 

“We are seeking to identify immune targets that contribute to heart muscle damage following heart attacks,” said Korzick. “This is a new area in heart attack research, and our work may contribute to the development of new treatments for older women, reducing death and illness related to heart disease.”

Korzick’s collaborators on the project are Connie Rogers, associate professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State, and Vijay Kumar, professor of physiology and pharmacology at University of Toledo. Rogers and Kumar will provide expertise in the interpretation of immune responses. 

Last Updated June 28, 2021