Investigating Mechanisms Underlying Female Cardiovascular Resilience and Health

Helen E. Collins

Principal Investigator


Dr. Helen E. Collins attended the University of Leicester in England during the years 2003-2006 where she pursued a BSc (Hons) degree in Biological Sciences majoring in Physiology and Pharmacology.  During her BSc, she undertook an undergraduate honors thesis entitled "Responses of cardiac myocytes to simulated metabolic ischaemia (and reperfusion) and the effects of protective interventions" under Professor Nick B. Standen (deceased). It was during this time, she became passionate about the cardiovascular system. Following the completion of her BSc degree, Dr. Collins entered the PhD program in the department of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Leicester under the mentorship of Dr. Glenn C. Rodrigo. Her thesis entitled "Diurnal variation in cardiac excitation-contraction coupling in rat ventricular myocytes" focused on examination of time of day fluctuations in cardiomyocyte calcium handling. This was one of the first times that time of day fluctuation in cardiomyocyte calcium handling was described. It was during this time, she became technically skilled in techniques including: cardiomyocyte isolation, calcium and contractility imaging, electrophysiology, qRT-PCR, amongst others.  After passing her PhD viva vocae, she joined the laboratory of Dr. John C. Chatham at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) in 2012 to focus on the elucidation of the physiological role of the calcium sensing protein, STIM1, in the adult heart.  During her postdoctoral studies, she was successful in generating and validating the cardiomyocyte-specific STIM1-KO mouse model, from which several seminal findings were made and contributed to Dr. Collins obtaining three independent postdoctoral fellowships including those from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. In addition, during her tenure at UAB, Dr. Collins was fortunate to collaborate with Dr. Martin Young on his studies investigating the circadian clock in the cardiomyocyte. During the last few months of her time at UAB, Dr. Collins also worked with Drs. Jianhua Zhang and Martin Young on a project focused on examination of the circadian regulation of cardiac mitophagy and autophagy.  In 2019, Dr. Collins joined the faculty at the University of Louisville (UofL) as Assistant Professor in the division of Environmental Medicine in the Diabetes and Obesity center.  Dr. Collins' work and laboratory at UofL focus on understanding the mechanisms contributing to female cardiovascular health and resilience.  The main focus of investigation since the labs inception is investigating mechanisms contributing to pregnancy-induced cardiac growth and its reversal.