Stroke is the number one cause of disability in the US. This is a result of physical impairments as well as increased risk of dementia after stroke. High blood pressure is the top risk factor for stroke followed by diabetes. High blood pressure, diabetes and stroke are highly prevalent in our Veterans. Hypertension is the most common vascular risk factor among Veterans with stroke. Moreover, among Veterans, hypertension is the most common chronic condition, affecting more than 37% of the Veteran population. 25% of our Veterans have diabetes. Despite years of extensive research, all efforts to protect neurons from ischemic stroke injury failed. There is only one treatment for stroke and that is to open the occluded blood vessels with a clot-busting drug. There is NO treatment for dementia that develops after stroke. Reasons for this failure may be several fold: 1) researchers have used otherwise healthy and young animal models in research; 2) most studies utilized male animals; and 3) researchers have tried to salvage and repair only neurons. It is now increasingly recognized that blood vessels of the brain are extremely critical for the acute stroke injury and chronic recovery. When blood flow to the brain is compromised, cognitive impairment ensues and recovery from stroke is impaired. Targets for new treatments may be different in females and/or diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure that are commonly found in patients with stroke or cognitive impairment. This is also quite relevant to VA mission as our female Veterans are steadily increasing among our Veterans and suffering from these diseases necessitating the VA to launch the ?Women?s Health Initiative?. Dr. Ergul, a well-accomplished VA Research Career Scientist and Regents? Professor at Augusta University, uses her uniquely combined expertise in endocrinology, physiology, pharmacology and vascular biology to address these gaps by studying the interaction of diabetes and high blood pressure with associated complications such as stroke and cognitive impairment in both sexes. She is extremely committed to improve the quality of life of our Veterans and our society, a commitment solidified by Research Career Scientist recognition in the last 5 years. Her commitment to VA and cardiovascular disease research is evidenced by 1) continuous extramural finding by National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, and Veterans Affairs in the last 20 years, 2) her over 150 publications (59 alone during the tenure of the RCS in the last 5 years), 3) success of renewing VA Merit Award twice during the current RCS award period, 4) receiving additional extramural funding to address complementary scientific questions, 5) her stature as a leader in the field and 6) the success of her mentoring next generation of scientists.

Public Health Relevance

Stroke is a major cause of disability in the US and among our Veterans. High blood pressure and diabetes, which occurs in 37% and 25% of our Veterans, respectively, are two major diseases that increase the risk of having a stroke. There are NO approved treatments because we do not know the underlying mechanisms that contribute to poor brain repair and functional recovery after stroke in these diseases. Most research has been conducted in males and we do not know the disease process in females. We will use disease models that are common in stroke patients and determine the mechanisms contributing to post stroke functional and cognitive recovery in both sexes. Since a high percentage of Veterans suffer from diabetes and stroke and female Veterans are rapidly increasing, this project is highly relevant to the mission of Veterans Affairs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Veterans Affairs (VA)
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Research Career Scientist (RCSR)
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Ralph H Johnson VA Medical Center
United States
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