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Targeting inflammation may cure pulmonary hypertension

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Pulmonary hypertension is a serious, life-threatening condition for which there is currently no cure besides lung transplantation because the  drugs and current therapies are aimed only to relieve symptoms. Now researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, found that the disease may be caused by a molecular pathway that promotes inflammation and targeting this pathway could provide a possible cure for this fatal disease.

Besides a possible treatment for pulmonary hypertension, the study published in Science Translational Medicine, provides a better understanding of other diseases involving inflammation of blood vessels such as coronary artery disease. Mark Nicolls, MD, senior author of the study and division chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Stanford and an associate professor of medicine, said that targeting inflammation is an interesting approach that can augment current treatments for pulmonary hypertension because it can reverse the possible cause of the disease.

Pulmonary hypertension is a life-threatening medical condition that usually occurs in young or middle-aged. Symptoms are not specific: shortness of breath, cough, fatigue or dizziness. In more advanced stages people who suffer from pulmonary hypertension may have swollen legs due to fluid retention in the body. Statistics show that in the United States and Europe there are approximately 100,000 people who suffer from pulmonary hypertension, but it is believed that the number is higher because the symptoms are not specific.

Pulmonary hypertension can be primary and secondary, that is it occurs due to other diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleep apnea, pulmonary fibrosis and others. It must be said that secondary pulmonary hypertension is more common. In pulmonary hypertension there is a remodeling of blood vessels which leads to their narrowing and which affects the blood flow.

The medical treatment of pulmonary hypertension does not cure the disease, it only relieves the symptoms and prolong survival of patients. This treatment consists of vasodilators to relax the blood vessels and to improve blood flow. Nicolls pointed out that the current approved therapies have focused on the dilation of blood vessels without special attention being paid to the inflammation that is often seen in these blood vessels. He said that they concentrated to discover to what extent inflammation contributes to the development of this disease. The results were promising because the experiments on rats with induced pulmonary hypertension have shown that the disease can be reversed if the inflammation- molecular signaling pathway was blocked.