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COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS AND SURGEONS

Dr. Chen Wang, Dr. Jon T. Giles, Dr. Jonathan T. Lu, Dr. Gabrielle Page-Wilson,Dr. Jennifer E. Amengual, Dr. Hilda E. Fernandez, Dr. Elaine Wan, Dr. Emily J. Tsai

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.

Jennifer E. Amengual, MD

Dr. Jennifer Amengual’s research goals are focused on developing targeted therapies for the treatment of lymphoma. Primary mediastinal b-cell lymphoma (PMBCL) is a distinct entity which harbors both epigenetic and immune derangements driving lymphomagenesis. It is a disease that predominantly inflicts women in their third and fourth decades of life. Dr. Amengual hopes to understand how epigenetic modulation effects the expression of key determinants and drivers of PMBCL and immune function and to determine if combined epigenetic modulation and immune check point inhibition is synergistic in PMBCL.

2019 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender-Specific Medicine

Hilda E. Fernandez, MD

Dr. Hilda E. Fernandez, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology at Columbia University Medical Center, is studying the reason young people with chronic kidney disease have difficulties in brain function. She believes this may be on the basis of a defective gene that affects both the brain and the kidney.

2018 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender-Specific Medicine

Elaine Wan, MD, FACC, FAHA, FHRS

Esther Aboodi Assistant Professor of Cardiology (in Medicine) Columbia University Medical Center

Dr. Elaine Wan is studying the cardiac ion channels and how the modulation of these ion channels in mouse models allow for discovery of novel therapeutic targets for atrial fibrillation and heart failure, both of which are major health problems around the world.

2017 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender-Specific Medicine

Emily J. Tsai, MD, FACC, FAHA

Doctor Tsai is researching a critical issue that is overlooked and under-studied— that heart failure differs between men and women and that a vast number of women with heart failure do not benefit from existing medications. This award will support her research in understanding the biology of gender-differences in heart dysfunction. Her hope is that by understanding the biology of gender-differences in the failing heart, we will one day be able to develop personalized, precision medicine to improve the lives and survival of ALL patients with heart failure, INCLUDING the nearly 3 million women afflicted with heart failure in the US.

2016 Winner of the M. Iréne Ferrer Scholar Award In Gender-Specific Medicine

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