Thursday, July 10, 2008

#2, Pitt-led research gets to the heart of common problems

Pitt-led research gets to the heart of common problems

By The Tribune-Review
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

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Research led by University of Pittsburgh scientists is the first to describe how two common congenital circulatory problems form, the university announced today.

The team found that a gene called unc45a plays a critical and previously unknown role in the formation of aortic arch vessels. The vessels contribute to several of the body's major arteries and often develop improperly, causing a wide range of vascular defects.

The team also found that arteriovenous malformations, or AVMs, happen when an artery fuses with a vein, diverting blood flow, and result from genetic and physiological factors. Previously doctors had believed its origins were solely genetic.

The research is published in the journal Developmental Biology. Scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health also participated.

"We discover AVMs in humans when something goes wrong and we can never go back and trace the shunt's development," co-author Beth Roman, assistant professor of biological sciences at Pitt, said in a news release. "Only when we fully understand the mechanisms leading to these malformations will we be able to develop better diagnostic tests and preventative treatments to pinpoint the best time to intervene."

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