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Understanding how gender and sex affects strokes

Understanding how gender and sex affects strokes

Dedicated to solving the mysteries of how strokes alter the function of the brain on a molecular level to improve treatments, Louise D. McCullough, MD, PhD, has discovered that sex impacts stroke response and outcomes.

“My research focuses on determining the fundamental mechanisms responsible for sex and age differences in cell death, inflammatory responses, and neural repair throughout the lifespan,” says McCullough.

Both sex and age influence what challenges a patient will face after a stroke. For example, elderly women are a third more likely to develop depression, greater cognitive decline, and poorer quality of life than men the same age, in part due to differences in the way male and female cells respond to the injury.

“Medication that helps to reduce stroke-related damage in one sex can be harmful to the other,” McCullough says. “Uncovering these differences is vital to helping all stroke patients return to full, healthy lives.”

Her study of how different sexes (male versus female) respond on a cellular level to injury contributed to the National Institutes of Health’s decision to mandate that females be included in all preclinical studies.

McCullough’s work is supported through the generosity of the Huffington Foundation, which also helped launch the BioRepository of Neurological Disorders Registry and Tissue Repository at McGovern Medical School. The BioRepository stores genetic information, blood samples, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, and brain biopsy tissue from patients who have a stroke or other neurological conditions including vascular dementia. These samples are vital to helping faculty across the university pursue innovative research to improve outcomes for patients with neurological disorders.

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