WVSOM – August 22,
Shinichi Asano, Ph.D., an associate professor in the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine’s (WVSOM) Department of Biomedical Sciences, is studying how sex disparities affect the development of asthma-related vascular inflammation.
Using animal models, Asano’s laboratory is working to explain why female adults with asthma are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Asano said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, preclinical research was difficult to conduct, so his lab focused on analyzing clinical data related to sex disparities in COVID-19 and cardiovascular disease. During that time, he saw that young boys are more asthma-prone than young girls, but after puberty, these sex differences reverse. In fact, adult females develop more severe asthma compared to adult males, and these females are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Asano explained that asthma is an overreaction of the immune system and that some researchers think sex hormones have an effect on immune functions.
“This may be related to the sex differences in asthma incidence and severity we see in the clinical data. Particularly, how asthma increases the risk of cardiovascular disease in adult females is understudied,” Asano said. “Using animal models, we hope to find out whether the hormones the human body produces have either protective or detrimental effects on asthma related cardiovascular impacts.”
His study hypothesizes that sensitization to ovalbumin, a protein found in egg whites that is a common allergen, will increase both lung allergic responses and inflammation of the endothelium, a layer of cells that lines blood vessels. Early findings indicate that ovariectomized mice — female mice whose ovaries have been removed — did in fact show more severe lung allergic responses as well as dysfunction of the endothelium.
Asano received a $30,000 West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (WV-INBRE) faculty research development grant to assist with his study. Additionally, with another faculty member, Tuoen Liu, M.D., Ph.D., he received a $46,869 WV-INBRE equipment grant to purchase a myograph, a device that helps assess vascular function by measuring how well blood vessels dilate, and a multi-species hematology analyzer, which is used to perform blood counts.
Beyond the specific findings of his work, Asano said one of his goals is to introduce students to research concepts early in their medical school journey. Currently, students in his lab are performing biochemical analysis in the form of examining protein expression in the lungs to determine sex differences in inflammatory markers from asthmatic mice.
“I want to expose students to biomedical research,” Asano said. “Clinicians are also scientists, and some of our former lab students have been successful at using their research experience to obtain residency positions that are highly competitive. So it’s important to help provide these kinds of opportunities for our predoctoral students.”
Asano, who joined WVSOM in August 2018, previously served as an assistant professor at Fairmont State University in the exercise science department. He received a Ph.D. degree in exercise physiology from the West Virginia University School of Medicine, followed by postdoctoral fellowships at the WVU School of Medicine, Marshall University School of Pharmacy and the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder.