The effect of ageing and sex differences on heart recovery following a heart attack

Research Opportunity
Honours students
Number of Honour Places Available
Department / Centre
Baker Department of Cardiometabolic Health
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Associate Professor Anna Calkin Personal web page
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Adele Richart Personal web page

Summary There are currently no treatments for survivors of a heart attack to support their heart healing and to reduce their high risk of developing severe complications such as heart failure. Most preclinical studies investigating cardiac protection post-heart attack were conducted on young male animals, equivalent to a teenager; however, 90% of Australian victims of heart attack were above 55 years and, importantly, 40% of them were women. Our study will establish for the first time, the age- and sex-specific differences in heart recovery after a heart attack, with a particular focus on cardiac function and remodelling. This study will provide support for further studies on treatments adapted for aged males and females following a heart attack.

Project Details

Age is a well-established risk factor for heart attack, with older individuals having a higher risk for having a heart attack, and a higher mortality rate post-heart attack. Animal studies have demonstrated significantly lower survival rates post-heart attack for aged compared to young male mice. However, for those that survived, whether aged mice exhibited differences in cardiac function and cardiac recovery remain unclear, and the mechanisms underlying these poorer outcomes in aged mice are not well understood.

Furthermore, none of these studies included aged female mice. It is well established that pre-menopausal women are protected from cardiovascular diseases and sex differences in favour of females are also demonstrated in animal studies. However, epidemiological studies have shown that women who have has a heart attack are generally older than men and have a higher risk of mortality after a heart attack. Despite these observations, biological differences in the setting of heart attack between elderly men and women are poorly understood, and there is an urgent need for research to overcome the poor outcomes of women following a heart attack.

Thus, this project will examine the effect of age and sex on heart recovery and outcomes after heart attack. We will perform a surgically-induced heart attack on young and aged, male and female mice, and will assess the survival rate post-heart attack. For mice that survive, heart recovery will be assessed 2 weeks post-surgery by measuring their heart function by echocardiography. Heart healing will also be assessed by measuring the size of the injury caused by the heart attack as well as the fibrotic depot and capillary density of the cardiac tissue. Heart function will also be assessed before surgery to determine whether aged mice exhibit heart dysfunction even without a heart attack.

Results from this study will provide the basis for further studies investigating novel therapies targeting older males and females following a heart attack.

School Research Themes


Research Opportunities

Honours students
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

Department / Centre

Baker Department of Cardiometabolic Health

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