Dr. Chen Wang, Dr. Jon T. Giles, Dr. Jonathan T. Lu, Dr. Gabrielle Page-Wilson

Dr. Gabrielle Page-Wilson

Dr. Gabrielle Page-Wilson, Assistant Professor of Medicine, is an endocrinologist studying how the endocrine glands regulate metabolism and energy balance. She is particularly interested in pituitary tumors. Most recently, she showed that the stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands, cortisol, is an important regulator of Agouti-related protein. This is a brain peptide that stimulates appetite and suppresses energy expenditure, fortifying the body when it is challenged with a threat by stimulating it to store food and conserve energy. Doctor Page-Wilson is studying the ways oral steroids (glucocorticoids), which are biologically similar to cortisol, prevent inflammation. However, they often produce weight gain and obesity for reasons that are unclear. Moreover, the effects of these substances are different in males and females, and Dr. Page-Wilson will examine their different impact on appetite and  caloric expenditure in the two sexes. This research is important to help prevent the unwanted side effects that are so frequent in the many patients who need this important medication.

Dr. Chen Wang

Dr. Chen Wang, Birch-Derchin Scholar, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Columbia University of New York. Doctor Wang devised a novel method for characterizing the sex-specific development of neurons in the African clawed frog. She is studying how the nervous system of male and female organisms are wired differently at the cellular and molecular levels by working in a simple animal model, the nematode, and using a combination of classic genetic tools and modern molecular techniques.

Dr. Jonathan T. Lu

Dr. Jonathan T. Lu, Assistant Professor of Medicine, is looking at the characteristics of heart cells that come from women who have an electrical abnormality in their hearts. Disturbances in their cardiac rhythm can cause them to faint and can even be fatal. These women have a specific mutation in one of their genes that men also have, but men have no disturbance in the electrical system that produces the heartbeat and are not symptomatic. To examine this fascinating difference between the sexes, Dr. Lu has grown cardiac cells from humans with this disorder and is looking at the electrical characteristics of these cells. He has collaborated with a visiting medical student from Linkoping University in Sweden, Sofia Staf, to see whether sex hormones had an effect on the characteristics of these cells. Estrogen had no apparent impact on the genes expressed by the cultured myocytes. The next step is to see if testosterone modifies the characteristics of the cells. We are particularly pleased to meet Ms. Staf, who hopes to return to continue her work with Dr. Lu after her medical school education in Sweden.

Dr. Jon T. Giles

Dr. Jon T. Giles, Assistant Professor of Medicine, is examining the reasons that atherosclerotic heart disease is increased in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). He is exploring gender differences in the characteristics of body fat and the blood vessels that supply it in patients with RA. He believes that compared to men, women with rheumatoid arthritis will show more inflammation in their fat tissue and less ability of their body fat to use glucose. In previous studies, he has found no difference in the quantity of fat around the intestines (visceral fat) and in the thin sheet of tissue that covers the heart (the pericardium) between the sexes, and will test the hypothesis that gender-specific differences in the metabolic characteristics of the fat determine the severity of heart disease in RA patients. Dr. Giles has completed the difficult tasks of establishing and testing of the techniques for measuring the amount and location of body fat accurately and for defining the immune characteristics of the fat cells and the blood vessels supplying them. Patient enrollment has just begun and they will supply fat tissue biopsies that Dr. Giles will characterize.

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