Jennie Vu

Supervisor: Gavin Oudit

Project: Sex-specific effects of an apelin-like drug in ameliorating cardiac damage after a heart attack


Edmonton, AB

Degree program:

Bachelor of Science in Honors Physiology

Why did you choose this program?

I have always enjoyed learning about human bodily functions and had a particular interest in cardiovascular studies ever since I was exposed to it in high school. This program allows me to better understand how our systems intricately work together to help keep us alive.

What did you get to work on throughout your studentship?

I got to build hypoxia chambers and create my own protocol for the development of the animal pulmonary arterial hypertension model.

What's been the best part of your experience so far?

I like being exposed to the myriad of techniques that people are using within the lab, and being given the freedom to be creative and to take control over the structure and trajectory of this project.

How has your studentship helped you towards your career aspirations?

It has compelled me to read literature, catch up on several concepts, lab techniques, as well as taught me about lab operations and costs. This is essential because I aspire to be a principal investigator eventually.

What has the support from WCHRI and the Alberta Women's Health Foundation meant to you?

Support from WCHRI and the Alberta Women's Health Foundation means a lot to me. I am honored to have the privilege to be able to study and conduct work in a lab at such a young age with a host of technology and resources at my disposal. It makes me feel like I can make a huge difference and go very far in my career in academia.

Lay abstract:

The risk of heart failure drastically increases following a heart attack, a cardiovascular event involving obstructed blood flow to a portion of the heart, leading to local tissue death. Existing medications are ineffective in preventing the decline in heart function after a heart attack.

Men and women have different patterns and symptoms of heart failure. Consequently, males and females respond differently to heart failure treatments; some medications pose a higher risk of death for female patients compared to males, which urges the need for a safe therapeutic for women.

This research is translational and can be applied in a clinical setting for heart failure patients. Prolonging the beneficial effects of the naturally occurring compound in the body, apelin, led to favourable results in women impacted by heart failure. Apelin promotes blood vessel growth and improves blood flow to injured tissues. Therefore, an apelin analog (AA) that is resistant to breakdown has been developed. We aim to explore the sex-specific manifestations of heart failure and biochemical mechanisms by which this drug operates.

Our experiment will use male and female animal models, each containing three groups: a control, those that will experience a surgically induced heart attack treated with the AA, or those who experience a heart attack without the AA treatment. One week after recovery from the heart attack, heart function will be assessed by clinical imaging technologies such as echocardiography. After, the structure and molecular composition of the hearts will be analyzed using biochemical techniques that involve measuring levels of genetic material and proteins indicative of heart failure, and conducting tissue staining. This allows us to observe and understand sex-specific changes in the heart after a heart attack, as well as differential male and female responses to the drug. This project is important to investigate this drug's potential to improve female cardiac health outcomes and recovery after a heart attack.