The BHI has a major commitment to finding out why men and women have different outcomes when it comes to heart disease.

Several researchers are undertaking studies to look at the difference gender makes in heart disease under Michell Professor of Medicine, John Beltrame.

PhD student Victor Lamin and his fellow researchers at the BHI are looking at factors that contribute to this genetic differential outcome in heart disease symptoms between men and women.

“We think that women are more protected from cardiovascular disease, making the treatment for women often less aggressive compared to men,” he said.

Research has also shown that women can have cardiovascular disease but may be unaware.

“If men have the symptoms they call the hospital.”

Rachel Dreyer, who now is doing her post doctoral studies at Yale University in the US, is looking at gender differences in these clinical outcomes.

Prof Beltrame says her work showed that women with heart attacks often come to the hospital later and therefore don’t get treated as quickly as men.

“There are also the psychological and psychosocial reasons that women may be more stressed than men. So stress might be a contributing factor in terms of treatment,” said Mr Lamin.

Some of the researchers in his group are focused on the biological aspects, such as blood vessel reactivity to this differential outcome.

PhD student Amenah Jaghoori discovered women’s blood vessels behave differently to men.

Prof Beltrame said women are more sensitive to substances that constrict blood vessels.

“This biological difference may contribute to the poorer outcomes experienced by women in heart disease,” he said.

This discovery has seen Ms Jaghoori receive several awards.

“In my case I want to know the molecular mechanism contributing to these gender differences,” said Mr Lamin.

To do this Victor will use both laboratory and clinical research to determine the outcome.

“We are collecting remnant vessels from patients when they are going through bypass surgery at the RAH and trying to investigate the mechanism responsible for the difference in contraction at molecular level such as signaling pathways and so on.”

By knowing what happens in each case, the researchers will then build a therapeutic pathway for future intervention.

Dr Dreyer and Melanie Wittwer are also working on the Australian component of the VIRGO study which seeks to understand why young women with heart attacks have poorer outcomes than men.

By collaborating on different research projects, scientists at the BHI are better equipped to provide optimal outcomes for patients in the long term.