Philanthropists helped fund an internationally renowned researcher at Ohio State who is cracking the code of why some women with diabetes develop cardiovascular disease – and why some don’t. His findings could help doctors detect changes in the hearts of women with diabetes sooner, leading to better treatment and fewer cardiac arrests.

When cardiologist Andrea Cardona, MD, arrived at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in 2016, he had one mission: to learn as much as he could from  Subha Raman, MD, an internationally recognized cardiologist who discovered a groundbreaking new treatment for young boys with Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy.

But in the short 18 months he has been here, the Italian physician-scientist has made an important discovery of his own that could help save the lives of millions of women around the world affected by diabetes.

Diabetes comes with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease for both men and women, but that risk is nearly twice as high for women. Research hasn’t yet shown exactly why, but Dr. Cardona’s work at Ohio State has uncovered some clues.

With a two-year fellowship supported by the Kirkpatrick Jordan Foundation, Dr. Cardona has discovered differences in iron metabolites in the blood of women with diabetes who have cardiovascular disease compared with those who do not. It is a small clue, something researchers call a biomarker, but it could have a big effect on how doctors pre-emptively treat women with diabetes.

Without philanthropy, these discoveries might yet have happened – but likely not for many, many more years.

“I think essentially what gifts allow us to do is to accelerate the science in my lab, and to have access to a really smart, enthusiastic collegial fellow who helps with all aspects of what I do – somebody who is creative in his own right and who helps make our science even better,” Dr. Raman shares.

It is still early in the research, and the Ohio State research team still has much to do. They plan to publish their findings soon, and could expand to additional studies to confirm Dr. Cardona’s findings, and, ultimately, search for better treatments to help women with diabetes avoid heart disease.

“The more I advance in this field, the more I find myself truly grateful for having met great mentors like professors Subha Raman and Giuseppe Ambrosio (at the University of Perugia in Italy), who helped me to develop my skills as a physician and as a researcher. I am also really thankful to the Kirkpatrick Jordan Foundation for having given me the great opportunity to work in such amazing academic environment,” Dr. Cardona explains.

When Dr. Cardona’s fellowship ends this summer, he will return to Italy, to the Division of Cardiology of the Academic Hospital of the University of Perugia. But his work will not stop.

“Not only won’t it stop, but when he goes back to Italy, the goal is that we will be able to expand our work internationally,” Dr. Raman says. “It just really ensures that our ultimate goal of improving cardiovascular health benefits our region, our country and people more globally.”

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