April 6, 2006
Contact: Tom Capezzuto
Phone: (973) 972-3000
UMDNJ Researcher Says Hypertension Drug May Prevent
Deadly Aortic Aneurysms in Those with Marfan Syndrome
- Study Published in April 7 Issue of Science Magazine -
A drug that is used to control hypertension may also prevent deadly aortic aneurysms in those stricken with Marfan syndrome, says a researcher at the UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
The data was compiled from a study led by Dr. Harry C. Dietz at the Johns Hopkins, and a team of researchers that included Dr. Francesco Ramirez of the UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick. The treatment involved mice that were administered Losartan, an FDA approved drug that controls hypertension.
The results showed that the drug may prevent aortic dissection, or aneurysms, the primary cause of death in those who have Marfan syndrome, said Dr. Ramirez, director of the Child Health Institute of New Jersey. The institute is dedicated to the study of congenital abnormalities and development disabilities.
"The study results suggest Losartan works by attacking secondary consequences of the genetic defect traced to Marfan syndrome," Dr. Ramirez said. "Since the condition is both progressive and degenerative in those who have this disorder, Losartan may be a breakthrough treatment that may prevent many sudden deaths."
The study is published in the April 7 issue of Science Magazine.
Marfan syndrome is a genetic connective tissue disorder that affects about 100,000 people in the United States. It is characterized by excessive height, abnormally long and slender fingers and toes, flat feet, partial dislocation of the lenses of the eyes, and aortic dissection. Aortic dissection is a swelling in the walls of the aorta caused by a muscular coat that may rupture or compress blood vessels leading from the aorta.
"It is believed that the fragile connective tissue abnormality associated with Marfan syndrome triggers the progression of vascular disease in those who have it, and often results in the development of aortic aneurysms," Dr. Ramirez said. "In most instances, there are no obvious outward warnings of these fatal aortic aneurysms, which often occur in those who are young and athletic. It is a silent killer."
The study was sponsored by a National Institutes of Health program project grant that also includes investigators at the New York University School of Medicine and the Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland, Oregon.
Dr. Ramirez noted that clinical studies are needed in human patients to gauge the overall effectiveness of Losartan in controlling the development and progression of aortic dissection. Those diagnosed with Marfan syndrome need to be monitored by physicians throughout their lives, and also may experience deterioration of muscles, joints and bones and dislocated eye lenses that can lead to blindness.
To arrange an interview with Dr. Ramirez, call Tom Capezzuto at (973) 972 7273.
UMDNJ is the nation’s largest free standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state’s three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty on campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level 1 Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.