New multidisciplinary research center for women’s cardiovascular and brain health

Center is one of four UC Davis Health programs funded as part of a $24 million award to UC Davis Health for women’s health research

(SACRAMENTO)

Building on the expertise of its physicians and researchers in women’s health, UC Davis Health has established the Center for Women’s Cardiovascular and Brain Health.

Amparo Villablance wearing a red dress
Amparo Villablanca, director of the UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program

The new $4 million research center will emphasize the effects of vascular dementia and cardiovascular diseases on marginalized and diverse communities in California. It will also focus on the impacts to economically disadvantaged communities, where UC Davis has a unique strength in its outreach and catchment area.

“Heart disease in women remains under-recognized and historically men have been the primary subjects of the research done to understand heart disease and stroke, which has been the basis for treatment guidelines and programs,” said Amparo Villablanca, professor of cardiovascular medicine and director of the UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program. “As a result, cardiovascular disease in women is frequently underdiagnosed and undertreated, and many women continue to fail to receive interventions that could save their lives. This research has the unique potential for discovery of novel therapeutic targets for cardiovascular disease and dementia in women,” explained Villablanca, who is the principal investigator for the new award.

The UC Davis Center for Women’s Cardiovascular and Brain Health is one of four UC Davis Health programs funded as part of a $24 million award to UC Davis Health for women’s health research in breast cancer, dementia and cardiovascular disease. The UC Davis initiative is known as the HEAL-HER (Heart, BrEast and BrAin Heath Equity Research) Program.

Led by Villablanca, the multidisciplinary team will include cardiovascular, bioinformatics and computational scientists as well as neuropathologists and behavioral and population health scientists. They’ll deploy molecular, epidemiological, and implementation science technologies coupled with machine learning, artificial intelligence, and big data high-throughput technologies to conduct leading edge research across multiple platforms.

Amparo Villablanca
Cardiovascular disease in women is frequently underdiagnosed and undertreated, and many women continue to fail to receive interventions that could save their lives. This research has the unique potential for discovery of novel therapeutic targets for cardiovascular disease and dementia in women.” Amparo Villablanca

Research plans include:

  • Study the role of the overlapping risk factors for cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, and brain health related to sex and gender across the lifespan in under-represented women.
  • Address the effect of the impending epidemic of dementia, and sex disparities in prevalence and death.
  • Enhance our understanding of fundamental molecular male-female differences in how cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity affect the brain’s predisposition to vascular dementia.

Additionally, the funding will give the center the ability to train the next generation of scientists. These new researchers will have the expertise to test and deploy new models of engagement to increase the participation of women in clinical research studies.

“By utilizing a convergence research approach that will integrate data across the project areas, the work of the Center has the unique potential to advance health and science for women at risk for cardiovascular disease and dementia,” Villablanca said.

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