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Women’s Health Research Program (WHRP) awards grants

Oct. 10, 2013 College News - Paula Traktman, PhD, Chairman of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Walter Schroeder Professor of Microbiology and Senior Associate Dean for Research Development, and Srividya Kidambi, MD, MS, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology, Metabolism and Clinical Nutrition), have been selected to receive this year’s grants from the Medical College’s Women’s Health Research Program.

The program was started and is directed by Janet Rader, MD, Jack A. and Elaine D. Klieger Professor and Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology, to secure the lifelong health of women through research findings that lead to improved clinical practices and patient outcomes.

Dr. Traktman received a grant for her project, The Role of the VRK1 Protein Kinase in Female Fertility.  Based on Dr. Traktman’s previous work in a mouse model exploring a protein referred to as “VRK1,” there is a good chance that reduced VRK1 levels in women may compromise fertility.  Since many cases of female infertility have no known cause, since the etiology of many cases of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is not known, and since a significant minority of eggs are not productively fertilized during in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures, this study may provide new insight into the role genetics play in female infertility. The study may also identify genetic markers that may predict egg quality in patients undergoing IVF.  Dr. Traktman is working in collaboration with Dr. Estil Strawn, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.

Dr. Kidambi’s team received a WHRP grant for the project, Interplay of Gender, Ethnicity, and Adiposity Distribution on Cardiovascular Disease and infertility.  The central hypothesis for this study is that “all obesity is not created equal” and that body fat distribution determines ones risk for

cardiovascular disease (CVD) and possibly infertility. Specifically, while visceral adiposity may increase CVD risk, subcutaneous adiposity may be a protective factor against CVD and metabolic risk.  To accomplish this, Dr. Kidambi is collaborating with general surgeons, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, molecular biologists, and pathologists to obtain and characterize paired visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue samples from well-phenotyped elective abdominal surgery patients.  The differences in adipose tissue characteristics based on the location may explain their pathogenicity.  Showing that certain types of fat may be protective can change existing obesity treatment paradigms and that perhaps less emphasis could be placed on weight loss for certain individuals.

Dr. Traktman and Dr. Kidambi each received a one-year, $50,000 grant to conduct their research projects.  Funding for these WHRP awards is made possible by the Dr. Ralph and Marian C. Falk Medical Research Trust.  They will report on their findings and are expected to use these projects to generate extramural funding.

A goal of the Women’s Health Research Program is to build the research capacity of the Medical College in areas that address the unique challenges women face across a spectrum of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and problems associated with aging. Dr. Rader encouraged scientists to submit projects that met the Institute of Medicine’s definition of women’s health: health conditions that are specific to women; that are more common or more serious in women; that have distinct causes or manifestations in women; that have different outcomes or treatments in women; or that have high morbidity or mortality in women.

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Page Updated 10/10/2013