Alpha Phi Foundation funds research targeted at understanding Coronary Microvascular Disease in women

by Alex Goodman in Impact, Press Release

“We are excited to combine cutting-edge genomics and cardiac imaging to make new insights into CMVD. This work will lead to a new mechanistic understanding of CMVD and pave the road for finding novel therapies and enabling new diagnostics.”

Alpha Phi Foundation is pleased to announce the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania as the recipient of the 2022 Heart to Heart Grant. Awarded annually, the Heart to Heart Grant funds research and educational programs that support the advancement of women’s heart health and cardiac care. Endowing the Heart to Heart Grant and maintaining our continued support of groundbreaking cardiac advancements is a priority of Alpha Phi Foundation’s comprehensive endowment campaign, Leading With Heart.

Faculty members at Penn Med will use the $100,000 grant for their research project, Genetic Determinants of Coronary Microvascular Disease in Women. Historically a difficult diagnosis to make, project investigators Dr. Marie Guerraty and Dr. Shefali Verma will utilize information from the Penn Medicine BioBank (PMBB) to increase understanding around this malady in women. By investigating genetic variants that correlate with the diagnosis of Coronary Microvascular Disease (CMVD), Drs. Guerraty and Verma are hopeful that pathways for targeted treatments can be identified.

“Rapid and impactful research is needed, especially efforts targeted to understanding CMVD in women. Women have increased resting myocardial blood flow, suggestive of CMVD, which contributes to the higher burden of untreated cardiovascular disease in women. To that end, we propose to combine the unique skillsets of investigators with an outstanding research environment to make major strides in understanding CMVD pathogenesis,” says Dr. Guerraty.

The Penn Medicine BioBank (PMBB) hosts a robust data set; at the time a patient is enrolled in outpatient care, they consent to share their Electronic Health Records and blood samples. PMBB has recruited more than 90,000 participants, with a goal of reaching 500,000 patients over the next five years, according to the project investigators. Their patient population is quite diverse, too: “25% of our participants are African American and other minority populations are present as well,” adds Dr. Guerraty. This representation of the greater Philadelphia area will allow the project investigators to not only study CMVD in women but compare differences across racial and ethnic groups.

Results from this twelve-month study will be disseminated widely, published to not only the scientific community but to the greater population of women at-large. “Not only will this project aid in creating advancements for women’s heart health, it will be done so in a way that can be easily explained to anyone. Alpha Phi members and external researchers alike will be able to understand the benefits of this research to the future of CMVD diagnosis and treatment,” says Shana Smith (Chi-Montana), Alpha Phi Foundation Board Director and Heart to Heart Advisory Council member.

Dr. Guerraty and Dr. Verma are committed to the mentorship of young women in the scientific sector, which is why research internship positions will be created for members of the Eta Iota Chapter of Alpha Phi at the University of Pennsylvania to get involved. Wishing to maximize the engagement of Alpha Phi alumnae and collegians near and far, opportunities for virtual or in-person mentorship and participation are also in the works. “Since we are running our own research teams, we are able to engage Alpha Phis from nursing, medicine, and life sciences programs to learn about the research results and how our results are impacting clinical decision making. We are very passionate about teaching the community about the role of precision medicine and especially how the tools available could help other women interested in research learn about the tools that are used for informing next generation’s healthcare,” says Dr. Guerraty.

The Heart to Heart Grant would not be possible without the continued generosity of Alpha Phi Foundation donors and volunteers. For over 75 years, Alpha Phi has asserted a commitment to improving women’s heart health, and today, through Alpha Phi Foundation’s Leading With Heart campaign, Alpha Phi seeks to further the impact made through its Women’s Heart Health Program.

Throughout Leading With Heart, Foundation donors have supported over $2 million in grants to community organizations and research institutions with a shared focus in women’s heart health, and have established a $1 million endowment fund to support the Heart to Heart Grant in perpetuity and maintain Alpha Phi’s dedication to funding ground-breaking research and programs that educate, empower, and save lives.

Will you join us in Leading With Heart today? Learn more at


Alpha Phi Foundation’s Women’s Heart Health Program

Women’s heart health has been the philanthropic focus of Alpha Phi since 1946. Since its inception in 1993, the Heart to Heart Grant has invested over $1.5 million in female-focused cardiovascular research and education. Learn more about the Women’s Heart Health Program.

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