HOUSTON(May 1, 2009) For the first time, scientists have discovered a single gene defect that causes thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections as well as early onset coronary artery disease, ischemic stroke and Moyamoya disease. The research is led by scientists at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
The study, "Mutations in Smooth Muscle Alpha-Actin (ACTA2) Cause Early Onset Coronary Artery Disease, Stroke and Moyamoya Disease, Along with Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms and Dissections," was published early online April 30 in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
"If someone is found to have an alteration or mutation in this gene, we can do screening for vascular diseases, and if diagnosed with disease, they can take medications and undergo surgical approaches to prevent premature death or disability," said senior author and principal investigator Dianna Milewicz, M.D., Ph.D., professor and director of the Division of Medical Genetics at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.
The discovery of the causal relationship between the mutated gene ACTA2 and artery diseases has opened the door to a new way of thinking about the vascular system, Milewicz said.
"We need to look at the artery system as a continuous system or organ," said Milewicz, the President George Bush Professor in Cardiovascular Medicine. "We've been looking at it the wrong way. If you have this particular genetic mutation, it can present in several different diseases affecting different arteries."
Milewicz and her team studied 127 members of 20 families from around the world who had ACTA2 mutations. They were phenotyped for premature vascular diseases, defined as an age of onset less than 55 years in men and less than 60 years in women.
Premature thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections were the main vascular disease for 76 mutation carriers, while 26 had premature coronary artery disease, 15 had ischem
|Contact: Deborah Mann Lake|
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston