Pulmonary hypertension is a rare form of high blood pressure. A serious condition, pulmonary hypertension can limit your activities and affect your quality of life. It can also cause damage severe enough to cause the heart muscle to fail. In some instances, pulmonary hypertension can be fatal. There is currently no cure for pulmonary hypertension and available treatments focus on controlling the symptoms.
Unlike other forms of high blood pressure, pulmonary hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure which is centered in the pulmonary arteries, affecting the lungs and the heart (right side). In the early stages, pulmonary hypertension is frequently misdiagnosed since the symptoms are similar to those of asthma, general fatigue, and other conditions. Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension include: shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness or fainting, swelling of feet and hands (edema), heart palpitations, fast pulse, blue tint to lips or skin (from lack of blood flow), and chest pressure. Those with previous instances of pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lung) or a family history of pulmonary hypertension are at greater risk than others.
In what may be a breakthrough discovery, Canadian researchers identified a protein, PMI-1, which they believe serves as a marker for the diagnosis and potentially treatment of pulmonary hypertension. The study was sponsored jointly by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society with results presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010.
As a part of the study, researchers examined blood samples from patients suffering from pulmonary hypertension. They found a direct correlation between the levels of PIM-1 and the severity of the condition with the highest levels of PIM-1 found in patients with the most severe cases of pulmonary hypertension. Since the condition is difficult to diagnose, it’s usually not diagnosed until the condition has progressed to later stages which not only delays treatment but impacts the overall prognosis for the patient. Researchers believe that earlier diagnosis for pulmonary hypertension could be achieved by a simple blood test that checks the levels of PIM-1.
In addition to early diagnosis, researchers believe that they’ve unlocked the key to completely reversing pulmonary hypertension. Researchers found that they were able to completely reserve pulmonary hypertension by blocking the PIM-1 protein in patients. This finding is significant because it’s the first time that a therapy has been discovered which has the potential to completely reverse the condition. Dr. Bonnet, one of the study authors, called the finding “remarkable.”
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (2010, October 25). Gene therapy can reverse pulmonary hypertension, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 5, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2010/10/101024122345.htm
Pulmonary Hypertension, The Mayo Clinic, 09 Feb 2010, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pulmonary-hypertension/DS00430