Montreal - A Heart and Stroke Foundation researcher has discovered what could be the first truly effective breakthrough in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary hypertension, a devastating, life-threatening condition which results in an enlargement of the heart.
"We have discovered an early warning system in a protein called PIM-1," Dr. Sbastien Bonnet told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010, co-hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.
Dr. Bonnet has established that the PIM-1 cells can be used as markers of pulmonary hypertension.
"Blood samples were taken from patients to measure PIM-1 expression in the blood," says Dr. Bonnet, who is a professor at Laval University and a researcher at Centre hospitalier universitaire de Qubec. "We were surprised to find that the greater the PIM-1 levels, the more severe the pulmonary hypertension in the patient."
He says this opens the doors to using regular blood tests to look at PIM-1 levels. "If there is a slight increase in PIM-1, we will know that something is going on." This is important since the condition is under-diagnosed and often not discovered until it is in a late stage. Without earlier treatment it has a very poor prognosis. The condition has traditionally been diagnosed by a six minute walking test.
PIM-1 also offers the opportunity to move beyond the diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension to treatment. By blocking the PIM-1 protein, researchers were able to reverse the condition.
"This is a remarkable finding," says Dr. Bonnet. "We have found that using gene therapy to inhibit the inappropriate activation of this protein is a novel and effective therapy that can reverse the disease altogether."
Before this discovery there has been no agent to reverse the disease. Current drug treatments can improve quality of life but to this date there has been nothing that can cure the disease.
"Pulmonary hypertension is a rare but life-th
|Contact: Jane-Diane Fraser|
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada