Thank you from Celine

Posted by Celine on 22 March 2023

Department of Anatomy
Great King St
University of Otago

Re: Acceptance of Hope Foundation Scholarship

FAO: Dr Karen Mumme, Executive Officer, Hope Foundation

It is with immense pleasure that I am writing to express my gratitude for receiving the Hope Foundation Scholarship for research on ageing. I am extremely passionate about women’s health and ensuring that the historical exclusion of female models in biological research studies is no longer tolerated. I have centred the focus of my PhD around my strong research interest in estrogen signalling in metabolism in ageing in female mouse models and this scholarship will undoubtedly make an immeasurable contribution to my studies.

After menopause, where circulating sex hormones decline and reproductive capacity diminishes, many women experience symptoms which can be life-altering, including hot flushes, mood disruptions, weight gain and metabolic dysfunction. Many women are prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to counteract these symptoms, a large proportion of which contain estrogens. 17 Beta estradiol (17ßE2), the main circulating female estrogen, is commonly in HRT. However, HRT is unsuitable for a large number of women owing to family histories of reproductive cancers and cardiovascular episodes, principally due to the undesirable activation of peripheral estrogen receptors (ERs), rendering a substantial proportion of women having inadequate treatment options available during menopause.

I am now investigating a novel estrogen called “DHED”, an inactive form of 17ßE2 in mouse models of metabolic dysfunction. When DHED reaches the brain, a central nervous system specific enzyme converts DHED to 17ßE2 and critically, the estrogen then remains within the brain. Our hypothesis is that DHED will reach the hypothalamus (a well-established centre in the brain for controlling metabolism) and cause positive metabolic change such as reducing body weight and improving insulin and glucose tolerance, without exposing the periphery to estrogen and activating estrogen receptors. Investigating DHED’s role in metabolic ageing is entirely novel.

Our biological understanding of menopause remains limited, and so too does our current range of treatment options for symptoms during this hormonal transition. Historically, biological research has been undertaken predominantly in male subjects and women’s health has been widely overlooked, understudied and under-funded. Assuming that females are just “smaller males” has been a conundrum for biomedical research for decades, excluding women from benefiting from novel therapeutics in healthcare. As a young woman beginning my career in ageing research, I am extremely driven to ensure that investigations into novel therapeutics for the healthcare of future generations of ageing women is not ignored. Funding menopause-related PhD projects, such as my own, is crucial to initiating interest, conversations and action to ensure that menopausal care is at the forefront of national ageing and healthcare agendas in New Zealand.

I am beyond grateful to the Hope Foundation for this scholarship and I feel very humbled for your trust in me to pursue research which could shape how estrogen therapy is delivered in the clinic in coming years. I look forward to updating you as I pursue this exciting journey and I hope to channel my gratitude for this phenomenal opportunity into fruitful research in women’s health.

Ngā mihi,

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