Ongoing experiments at the University of Illinois on female and male rodents are shedding light on the role of estrogen during heart surgery. Specifically, researchers are examining the impacts of estrogen during ischemia, when arterial blood flow is stopped, and reperfusion, when the flow resumes.
The latest findings, to appear in the American Journal of Physiology: Heart and Circulatory Physiology, document how the estrogen-like components of soy provide the same protection as estrogen in female rats. In two studies published last year, estrogens role was shown in males and females. "Under controlled, well-defined circumstances, weve shown that without question estrogen, whether it is natural or from soy phytoestrogens, is offering protection," said David R. Gross, a professor of physiology and head of veterinary biosciences in the UI College of Veterinary Medicine. Regardless of the repairs made to the heart, reperfusion carries risks. The level of damage that naturally occurs can dictate how well a heart restarts and recovers, Gross said.
The research is part of a departmentwide effort to understand the molecular mechanisms of estrogen in different systems of the body. "If we are able to dissect the mechanisms of estrogens actions on the testes, for example, those same mechanisms will probably be functional in the heart," Gross said.
"Once we find the specific proteins that are involved in the hormones activities, then we can develop designer drugs," he said. "Wed like to able to block undesirable actions, such as those involved in breast cancer, or stimulate activity that may help the heart function better or heal faster."