FACTORS that increase the incidence of cardiovascular diseases in older women have been displayed in a study presented at an ESC congress. The findings unveil the molecular basis for the higher prevalence of these diseases among older women and could lead to the development of new treatments targeted at this population group.
Previous research has shown that women are more susceptible to cardiovascular diseases after menopause. To understand why this phenomenon occurs, the researchers observed molecular changes in the cells of the heart during ageing, and whether there were any differences between men and women in this regard.
Mitochondria Function and Inflammation
Using heart tissue obtained from seven women and seven men between the ages of 17 and 40 years and eight women and nine men aged between 50 and 68 years, they measured levels of proteins involved in mitochondria function and inflammation.
Higher levels of the Sirt1 protein, important for mitochondria function, were seen in the hearts of young women than young men; however, levels had decreased in older women but not older men. Additionally, whilst expression of the antioxidant protein in the mitochondria called superoxide dismutase 2 was higher in young females than young men, there was no difference at an older age; a similar scenario was shown with regards to expression of an enzyme protecting cells from oxidative damage called catalase.
With regards to inflammation, young females had higher levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines compared to men, but the difference was not present at an older age. It was also discovered that there were increased levels of macrophages, which promote inflammation, in women as they got older.
“Our study provides a molecular explanation for the increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases in older women,” commented Dr Maria Luisa Barcena De Arellano, Charité University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany. “We found that the hearts of older women have reduced expression of antioxidant proteins and proteins that are important for mitochondrial function. This may lead to the increased inflammation we observed in older women. Inflammation is known to contribute to cardiovascular disease.”
The study suggests that new treatments that increase the expression of mitochondrial proteins to improve mitochondrial function and reduce inflammation would help prevent cardiovascular disease onset in older women.
James Coker, Reporter
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