Research identifies new drug target for serious heart and lung condition

10 August 2015        

Model arteries grown in the lab Research published today in the journal Nature has identified a gene that sheds light on a potentially fatal heart and lung condition called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

The gene was first identified in a type of rat that is resistant to developing pulmonary hypertension in a low oxygen atmosphere.  It is responsible for producing a protein called ZIP12 which is not active in normal lungs but is switched on in the lungs of people with PAH. Treatments currently available for PAH can offer some relief but they do not tackle the cause of the disease.

By developing drugs that can act on the ZIP12 protein it may now be possible to reverse or delay the progression of the disease.

PAH is a chronic and debilitating lung disease that affects the blood vessels in the lungs, leading to heart failure, and leaves sufferers feeling breathless and exhausted. Around 6,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with the condition. Current treatments only target the symptoms and prognosis is very poor. Once diagnosed with PAH, a person has a 30 per cent chance of dying within three years.

Our Associate Medical Director, Professor Jeremy Pearson, said:

“Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), though uncommon, leads to substantially reduced quality of life and reduced life expectancy.  It is currently incurable and new drugs are urgently needed to improve treatment. These exciting findings hold out the hope of designing completely novel drugs to tackle this serious disease.”

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