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UCI researchers define estrogen's role in limiting heart disease in women

Irvine, Calif., July 19, 2005 -- UC Irvine School of Medicine researchers have identified how estrogen helps prevents a cardiac ailment often seen in women who have heart attacks. This research provides further evidence that hormone replacement therapy after menopause can help prevent certain forms of cardiovascular disease in women.

In tests done on female mice and mice heart cells, Dr. Ellis R. Levin and his UCI colleagues found that estrogen triggers molecular activity that blocks cardiac hypertrophy, or heart enlargement. This thickening of tissue in the heart ventricles is seen in almost 80 percent of people following heart attacks. Cardiac hypertrophy also commonly results from long-standing hypertension and leads to a poorly functioning heart and heart failure in many instances. Previous studies have indicated that premenopausal women have lower rates of heart disease than men, a rate that significantly rises in women after menopause.

Study results appear in the July 15 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The results will continue a debate raised by the Women's Health Initiative over whether estrogen plays any beneficial role with cardiac disease in women. The initiative is a recently completed 15-year research program funded by the National Institutes of Health to address the most common causes of death, disability and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women, and some of its study data indicated that estrogen offered no protection against the development of arteriosclerotic heart disease. A recent article published in Science by Drs. Michael Mendelsohn and Richard Karas of Tufts University School of Medicine, however, addressed concerns of drawing conclusions based on the Women's Health Initiative data.

"There has been intense reaction to the Women's Health Initiative report indicating that estrogen is not beneficial in preventing coronary heart disease," said Levin, a professor of medicine, biochemistry
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Contact: Tom Vasich
tmvasich@uci.edu
949-824-6455
University of California - Irvine
19-Jul-2005


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