Jean E. Schaffer, MD

Professor of Medicine

Washington University in St. Louis (WU)

The epidemic of diabetes and obesity presents a formidable challenge because of serious cardiovascular complications of these disorders that includes heart failure. In these diseases, dyslipidemia leads to fatty acid accumulation in non-adipose tissues such as the myocardium, which results in cellular dysfunction and cell death and contributes to organ dysfunction, a process known as lipotoxicity. Dyslipidemia may also contribute to other end organ complications and play a key role in transmitting increased cardiovascular risk to offspring.

Our work focuses on characterization of the fundamental cellular mechanisms of lipotoxicity and its role in subsequent organ dysfunction. In rodents, we are exploring the effects of the intrauterine environment on development metabolic syndrome and diabetes in adult offspring. Furthermore, we are characterizing the relationship between altered systemic lipid metabolism and early diabetic cardiomyopathy in human subjects with type 2 diabetes. Our long-term goal is to develop novel lipid biomarkers and non-invasive methods for diagnosing the earliest structural and functional abnormalities in diabetic cardiomyopathy and for guiding therapy.