Colorado State University Receives National Institutes of Health Funding as Specialized Center of Research on Sex and Gender Factors Affecting Women’s Health

Colorado State University is among the key collaborators in one new Specialized Center of Research on Sex and Gender Factors Affecting Women’s Health recently announced by the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women’s Health. In total, the NIH funded 11 centers this year with about $11 million budgeted per year for five years.

     Research priority areas, including mental health, reproductive health, metabolic disorders, osteoporosis, pain disorders and urinary tract conditions, will be addressed by the 11 centers in this new initiative.

     "Almost 10 percent of the adult U.S. population may suffer from a depressive illness with large economic consequences in addition to human suffering. Colorado State’s research will work to identify factors that might influence brain development in ways that would make it more likely that adult events could trigger major depressive disorder," said Stuart Tobet, a researcher in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "A key focus for us is that women are two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer major depressive disorder than men. We are trying to find out why – based on hypotheses about sex differences in brain development."  

     Tobet and colleague Robert Handa, both in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, have a long history of studies concerning sex differences in brain development using animal models.

     This grant project establishes a specialized center in concert with a team of researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Dr. Jill Goldstein, who leads the Harvard team, will examine the human brain for factors that may cause depression, while Tobet and Handa will examine factors in laboratory models using mice and rats.

     "This will allow us to experimentally manipulate events during development and compare results with humans who are identified with major depressive disorder and for whom we have fetal and neonatal histories," Tobet said.

     The interdisciplinary nature of these new and continuing centers will provide opportunities for innovative approaches to research on sex- and gender-related health effects.

     The specialized centers were selected on the basis of having at least three highly meritorious interdisciplinary research projects that explore an important issue related to sex and gender health differences. Individual projects must be related by a common theme, which encompasses clinical and basic research. An administrative unit at each institution oversees coordination of the individual projects.

     The Office of Research on Women’s Health is a component of the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health. The ORWH is the focal point for women’s health research at the NIH by promoting, stimulating and supporting efforts to improve women’s health through biomedical and behavioral research. ORWH works in partnership with NIH institutes and centers to ensure that women’s health research is part of the scientific framework at NIH and throughout the scientific community. The NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.