Dr. Vivian Pinn of ORWH opens the symposium.
NIH recently hosted the sixth annual Interdisciplinary Women’s Health Research Symposium, where junior investigators funded under the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) program and senior investigators funded from the Specialized Centers of Research (SCOR) on Sex and Gender Factors Affecting Women’s Health presented results of their work.
Dr. Vivian Pinn, director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health, kicked off the symposium by explaining the aims of the two programs. “The key concepts of the BIRCWH program, which targets junior faculty, are mentoring, interdisciplinary research and career development” to bridge the transition to research independence. While the SCOR Program involves a collaboration of established investigators, “the requirement that the SCOR necessarily include both basic science and clinical projects should advance scientific discoveries out of the lab and into a clinical environment.”
Dr. Duane Alexander of the Fogarty International Center noted how pelvic floor disorders are a major component of women’s health. “We have started a program of clinical trials, epidemiology and basic science. And, as a result, changes in practice have occurred,” he said.
Keynote speaker Dr. Thomas Insel, director of NIMH, highlighted the sexual dimorphism of brain developmental trajectories during childhood and adolescence and the differential risk for boys versus girls for a variety of mental illnesses. He then gave a talk on the neural basis of attachment. “Social attachment can now be studied at the gene, cell, system, individual and social levels,” he said.
Dr. Jeffrey P. Henderson of Washington University School of Medicine spoke on how compounds secreted by bacteria, yersiniabactin in particular, may contribute to reinfection in urinary tract infections.
Dr. Djuana Harvell of the University of Colorado, Denver, shared study findings that showed that women diagnosed with pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC) have a lower 10-year survival rate (44 percent) than non-PABC women (69 percent). She concluded that PABC is more aggressive due to elevated hormones during pregnancy.
Dr. Jon Levine of the Northwestern University SCOR said his research team has isolated an estrogen receptor alpha (ERa) signaling process that could mean that selective ERa agonists might be developed that would “confer reduced risk for development of obesity and type 2 diabetes in menopausal women.”
The symposium was sponsored by ORWH and the Office of Dietary Supplements, multiple institutes and centers, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Food and Drug Administration.