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Rebecca Scalzo, PhD

The Influence of Sex on Skeletal Muscle Myofibrillar Function in Rats with Type 2 Diabetes

Exercise capacity is a strong predictor of mortality and it is decreased in people with type 2 diabetes (T2D). This deficit is more substantial in women than men. Women with T2D are also at greater risk for cardiovascular disease related death than men. Skeletal muscle myofibrils are basic units of muscle that determine the force produced with each contraction and influence exercise capacity. 

The primary goal of Dr. Scalzo’s research is to determine whether there are sex differences or an impact of T2D on myofibrils. A secondary goal of her research is to examine the skeletal muscle myofibrillar response to exercise training in males and females with T2D. The findings from these studies may reveal sex differences in T2D, improve our understanding of the exercise impairment in women with T2D, and define a novel contributor to the risk for premature mortality in women with T2D.

We asked some questions about her life and career, to find out where she came from and where she's going.

When you were young, what did you envision yourself doing when you grew up?

I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was younger, but when I realized I would have to treat more than just dogs, I moved on to other options. I have always enjoyed science, especially my physiology classes in college, but I fought the idea of a research career because I wanted to do something with a lot of hands-on human interaction. Naively, I didn’t think that was part of a research career! My training during my master’s degree, which had a clinical focus, taught me I could get that human interaction with clinical and applied research objectives. 
If you had to summarize your research briefly, how would you describe it? 

I am interested in how sex affects cardiovascular disease risk in people with diabetes. I focus primarily on skeletal muscle physiology.
What are the real-world applications for your work? How can it help people? 

Pre-menopausal women are generally fairly protected from cardiovascular disease, but this protection is diminished when a woman has diabetes. The ultimate goal of my research is to identify ways we can prevent or treat cardiovascular disease in this population of women. 
What are your plans for the future of your research? 

My plans for the immediate future are to characterize the interaction of sex and diabetes on skeletal muscle function and metabolism.