University of Chicago cardiologists have created the first transgenic mouse that closely reproduces the clinical, anatomical and pathological features of dilated cardiomyopathy, allowing scientists an unprecedented opportunity to study the early changes associated with this fairly common disorder and to develop and test new therapies.
The finding is reported in the June 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
"This is a big step toward better understanding and better treatments for a prevalent and very deadly disease," said cardiologist Jeffrey Leiden, M.D., Ph.D., Frederick H. Rawson Professor of Medicine and Pathology at the University of Chicago and director of the study.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is an important cause of congestive heart failure, which affects more than four million Americans. Congestive heart failure is the most common cause of hospitalization for patients over the age of 65 and a leading cause of death.
In dilated cardiomyopathy the heart muscle expands and weakens -- ballooning out like an over-stretched rubber band -- until it can no longer pump blood efficiently. Patients complain of overwhelming fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pains. Lack of adequate circulation, in turn, can damage the lungs, liver, and other body systems.
Although cardiomyopathy has been associated with many possible triggers, such as viral infections or alcohol abuse, the cause is usually unknown. Idiopathic (of unknown cause) dilated cardiomyopathy (IDC), affects an estimated 36 out of every 100,000 people. Recent studies have shown that as many as 40 percent of those patients have a family history of the disorder, suggesting a
Contact: John Easton
University of Chicago Medical Center