The team's findings will appear in the online Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences next week (October 3-7, 2005). The work was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Science Foundation. Stamler is a paid consultant for Nitrox LLC, a biotechnology company developing NO-based drugs for disorders of the heart, lung and blood.
The potentially fatal lung condition, pulmonary hypertension, is characterized by high blood pressure in the lungs. The disorder is a common complication of chronic diseases such as emphysema, arthritis, sickle cell disease and heart failure. However, pulmonary hypertension can also arise in otherwise healthy people for unknown reasons. Symptoms include shortness of breath under minimal exertion, fatigue, chest pain, dizzy spells and fainting.
"Many people suffer pulmonary hypertension as a complicating factor of other chronic disease," said study senior author Jonathan Stamler, M.D. "In such cases, the lung condition is often predictive of poorer outcomes. For others, pulmonary hypertension is the primary disease."
"We have now established a molecular defect of the red blood cells as an important contributing cause of hypertension in the lung," added Timothy McMahon, lead author of the study. Physicians had previously considered an abnormality within the lung itself as the primary source of the condition
Contact: Kendall Morgan
Duke University Medical Center