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Center for Women’s Health Research

Center for Womens Health Research
 

Lori A. Walker, PhD

Does Loss of IL-19 Protect Females From Heart Disease?


Heart failure is the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S., disproportionately impacting women with regard to morbidity and mortality, but the molecular basis for this sexually dimorphic progression of heart failure is poorly understood. It has long been known that there is an inflammatory component of cardiac disease and markers of inflammation are associated with worsening condition and increased mortality. However, almost all clinical trials aimed at anti-inflammatory therapy for heart disease have been ineffective, or in some cases, even harmful. Recently, though, I have identified a novel inflammatory modulator, Interleukin 19 (IL-19), that promotes cardiac dysfunction in female subjects but not in male subjects. This cytokine has never before been shown to be involved in the pathogenesis of heart disease - my work addresses a completely new pathway regulating sex-specific cardiac disease progression. We have exciting new data showing that IL-19 is markedly increased in a female-specific model of heart disease and we believe that increases in IL-19 are responsible for worsening cardiac dysfunction in this model.

My current research efforts are focused on determining if loss of IL-19 signaling protects female mice from heart disease and on identifying unique inflammatory processes that are activated in women. We believe that sex-specific protein expression of key signaling components regulate pro-inflammatory signaling within the female population while male counterparts support anti-inflammatory pathways. Careful characterization of this pathway(s) will provide the foundation for targeted, sex-specific therapies aimed at treatment of women with heart disease while extending our understanding of the role of inflammation in cardiac disease in both sexes.