Dr Stephanie Simonds - Monash University

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24 October 2017


Discovering the link between cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and obesity

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Australia and is highly comorbid with obesity. Therefore, it is critical to understand how the two diseases affect each other, specifically how obesity influences CVD.

Research led by Stephanie recently identified the fat-derived hormone, leptin, is responsible for acting on the brain to increase blood pressure. Importantly, Stephanie and her team showed that when the leptin actions on these cells were blocked, the chronically elevated blood pressure was reduced.

Further throughout her research Stephanie noticed that CVD was delayed in women, compared to men, until females went through menopause. Posing the question, why do obese females develop elevated blood pressure much slower than obese males, despite comparable leptin concentrations? Stephanie has recently discovered that this unique protection granted to females is a result of oestrogen. In fact Stephanie experimentally showed when the naturally produced levels of oestrogen were removed (as would occur with menopause in humans), a rapid development of hypertension in obese females was seen.

Stephanie aims to understand the role of oestrogen in the brain to decrease blood pressure premenopausally in obesity. Her work will critically aid in the development of new therapeutic opportunities for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases in obesity.

 

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