Skip to main content
Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health

Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health

2010 BIRCWH-IWHR Scholars

Lorena Garcia, M.P.H., Dr. P.H.
Assistant Professor. Department of Public Health Sciences
Mentors:  Ellen Gold, Ph.D.; Ray Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Research Interest:  Health disparities between Mexican, White and African American women;
specifically metabolic and nutritional syndromes, particularly obesity, pre-diabetes, diabetes and health-related complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

Research Goals:  Since limited valid and generalizable health information is available regarding metabolic and nutritional syndromes among Mexican American women, the goal will be to identify demographic (eg, educational level, income and access to care), sociocultural (eg, acculturation and integration), and behavioral factors (eg, smoking and passive smoke exposure, dietary intake and physical activity), as well as health-related complications associated with obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Current Research Project:  Comparing the relationship between obesity, pre-diabetes, diabetes and health-related complications in specific racial/ethnic groups using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).  The specific research question: Does the prevalence of obesity, pre-diabetes, diabetes and health-related complications differ among a nationally representative sample of Mexican-American, White and Black (non-Latina) women using the NHANES data set?

Sumathi Sankaran-Walters, M.B.B.S., Ph.D.
Assistant Research Microbiologist, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology
Mentors:  Satya Dandekar, Ph.D.; Ellen Gold, Ph.D.; Heather M. Young, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N.

Research Interest:  Mucosal immunology / HIV-1 Pathogenesis in Women

Research Goals:  To formulate a program on maintaining mucosal health in older women

Current Research Project:  The effects of aging and menopause on HIV pathogenesis. Specific Aims:

  1. To determine the effects of aging and gender on T cell, macrophage and DC function in peripheral blood and GALT during chronic HIV infection. 
  2. To identify the effects of HAART on immune function in Peripheral Blood and GALT in older HIV infected patients. 
  3. To determine ex vivo the effects of estradiol on the T cells and dendritic cells including Th1, Th2 and Th17 response in pre-menopausal women compared to post-menopausal women. 

Barton Wise, M.D.
Assistant Professor. Center for Aging
Mentors:  Scott Fishman, M.D.; Nancy Lane, M.D.

Research Interest:  Osteoarthritis, joint replacement, pain

Research Goals:  To characterize the relation between pain in osteoarthritis and completion of total joint replacement, specifically total knee replacement, and how that relation is modified by gender. 
To explain the relation between function and muscle strength in osteoarthritis with total knee replacement.

Current Research Project:  Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common cause of disability in the elderly and disproportionately afflicts women.  Total knee replacement (TKR) is the most effective treatment for severe knee OA, but inexplicably is underutilized in women as compared with men.   We hypothesize that the disparity between women and men in choosing TKR is related to gender differences in the experience and/or reporting of OA pain, function, and physiological measures such as muscle strength.  To test this hypothesis, we propose the following specific aim: to determine how activity-related pain, function and muscle strength act as predictors of TKR, and how those effects are modified by gender.  Pursuit of this objective will permit: continued training in epidemiology, access to and the development of significant experience in analyzing large complex datasets, and collaboration with leading women’s health, pain and osteoarthritis researchers. These activities will form the foundation for obtaining peer reviewed funding in women’s health.

Wei Yao, M.D.
Assistant Professor. Center for Aging
Mentors:  Nancy Lane, M.D.

Research Interest:  Wingless signaling and its relationship with pathogenesis of osteoporosis;
translational bone research

Research Goals:  To determine the role of Wnt/canonical pathway in estrogen deficiency,
GC excess and aging-related osteoporosis.

Current Research Project:  Osteoporosis is a major public health issue for 44 million Americans. One in two women will suffer a fracture due to osteoporosis in their lifetime. The major causes for osteoporosis in women include estrogen deficiency, aging and glucocorticoid (GC) excess from treatment of chronic non-infectious inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Generally, the osteoporosis generated by these metabolic conditions result from change in the bone remodeling cycle that weakens the trabecular bone microarchitecture and increases fracture risk. The cell signaling pathways that control these events are not fully elucidated.

Recently, a new pathway of Wnt/canonical signaling pathway has been described. Wnt signaling appears to control skeletalgenesis and bone formation. Wnt signaling proteins are soluble glycoproteins that engage receptor complexes composed of Lrp5/6 and Frizzled proteins. A subgroup of Wnts induces a cascade of intracellular events that stabilizing beta-catenin in cytoplasm, facilitating its transport to the nucleus where it binds to Lef1/Tcf transcription factors and alters gene expression to promote osteoblast proliferation and differentiation. Based on the evidence that Wnt/canonical signaling pathway is critical in the bone remodeling process in both homeostasis and disease states, we hypothesize that estrogen deficiency, GC excess and aging -related osteoporosis may result from alterations in Wnt signaling pathway.; this in turn results in alterations in bone formation and mineralization which induce both localized and global deterioration in bone architecture and reductions in bone strength.