Susan E. Howlett, Ph.D.
Professor, Dalhousie University
Susan Howlett is Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine (Geriatric Medicine) at Dalhousie University. Professor Howlett is best known for her work on cardiac excitation-contraction coupling. She has discovered profound differences in the way that male and female heart cells function, how this changes with age and how sex hormones regulate these processes. Most recently her laboratory has pioneered the measurement of frailty in naturally aging animal models. She has used concepts developed in clinical medicine to quantify animal frailty with a novel "frailty index" tool based on deficit accumulation. Her work shows that maladaptive, age-dependent changes in heart structure and function are better graded by frailty index score than by age itself. This suggests that overall health, rather than chronological age, is a major determinant of cardiac aging. She has also shown that the frailty index tool is responsive to known longevity interventions and that it can be used to identify new biomarkers of frailty, such as inflammatory cytokines. The ability to quantify frailty in animal models is a major advance that promises to accelerate the effort to translate basic mechanisms of cellular dysfunction in aging into meaningful clinical interventions.