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Men and women develop aortic stenosis in different ways

A new study from McGill University has revealed that aortic stenosis does not evolve the same way in men and women. 

The researchers were surprised to find variability in the mineral deposits that accumulate within the aortic valves among patients who suffered from stenosis.

When the aortic valves are narrowed, the blood flow becomes restricted, which can cause a heart attack or stroke. Aortic valve stenosis often develops silently over time, with symptoms only arising after the condition has already become severe.

The McGill team utilized the Canadian Light Source (CLS), a national research facility located at the University of Saskatchewan, to examine damaged heart valves from patients who received transplants.

“What we showed, which was a surprise to us, is that the type of minerals in the heart valves is different between the sexes,” said study lead author Professor Marta Cerruti. “We unexpectedly found that the minerals are different in composition and shape, and that they grow slower in women.”

Using the Soft X-Ray Mischaracterization Beamline at the CLS, the researchers analyzed the mineral composition. They identified a type of mineral deposit was found almost exclusively in samples from female patients.

According to Professor Cerruti, the findings demonstrate the importance of thinking about diversity in the context of research, a concept that has historically been a blind spot for the scientific community. For example, it was once a standard practice to conduct experiments using only male mice.

“Our study is the perfect illustration that by only looking at a specific population, you will skew your data. Having a more diverse data set improves your science,”

Professor Cerruti said the research also highlights a need for different diagnostic and therapeutic approaches when treating aortic stenosis in men or women.

The research team will return to the CLS to gain a better understanding of the precise composition of the mineral deposits they found in women.

“Understanding what the minerals are could definitely help to develop a cure,” said Professor Cerruti. “It’s possible that there could be easier ways to target these minerals and dissolve them for women.”

The study is published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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