Slamdance Film Review: ‘My Blind Heart’

my-blind-heartPeter Brunner makes a visually arresting black-and-white debut with this experimental study of a man suffering from Marfan syndrome.

Dennis Harvey
Experimental narrative “My Blind Heart” follows a man suffering from the effects of Marfan syndrome — a genetic connective tissue disorder that can affect numerous body parts and functions — as he lives a semi-feral life in Vienna after the death of his mother. Visually arresting in high-contrast black-and-white, Peter Brunner’s debut feature is hardly a hot commercial prospect, but will appeal to fest and cinematheque programmers looking for challenging, accomplished new work.

Read More: Variety

Advertisements

Common blood pressure drug reduces aortic enlargement in Marfan syndrome

marfansyndromeuk1.jpgA common drug that is used to treat high blood pressure in the general population has been found to significantly reduce a dangerous and frequently fatal cardiac problem in patients with Marfan syndrome.

Results of the COMPARE (COzaar in Marfan PAtients Reduces aortic Enlargement) study reveal that patients treated with losartan (Cozaar) had a significantly reduced rate of aortic enlargement after 3 years compared to patients who did not receive the treatment.

“Our study is the first large, prospective randomized study to assess the effects of losartan on aortic enlargement in adults with Marfan syndrome, and confirms previous findings in a mouse model,” said lead investigator Maarten Groenink MD, PhD from the Departments of Cardiology and Radiology at Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

“We’re very excited to see that such a commonly used drug that is not expensive and has a familiar side-effect profile could have a significant effect on this very serious and frightening risk factor for these patients. These findings may change standard clinical management.”

Marfan syndrome, a heritable connective tissue disorder, affects 2-3 in 10,000 people. It causes progressive enlargement of the aorta, making it prone to rupture, which can be fatal in more than 50% of cases. Currently, the only effective treatment is prophylactic surgical aortic root replacement.

Read More: Yottafire

Dysfunctional TGF-beta signaling contributes to Loeys-Dietz syndrome associated aortic aneurysm

marfan syndrome uk logo squarePatients with the connective tissue disorder Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS) are at high risk for aortic aneurysm. LDS results in the presence of missense mutations within either of the genes encoding receptors for TGF-β. LDS-associated mutations are predicted to reduce TGF-β signaling; however, aortic tissue samples from LDS patients indicate that TGF-β signaling may be enhanced.

In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Harry Dietz and colleagues at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine developed a mouse model of LDS, in which transgenic animals expressing Tgfbr1 or Tgfbr2 with LDS-associated mutations recapitulated human phenotypes. Using this model, the authors determined that even though the mutated TGF-β receptors were functionally defective, there was evidence of increased TGF-β signaling as indicated by elevated Smad2 phosphorylation. Furthermore, development of aortic aneurysms in these mice was ameliorated by treatment with an Angiotensin II type 1 (AT1) receptor antagonist.

In a companion commentary, Alan Daughtery and colleagues at the University of Kentucky discuss the therapeutic implications of this study on the use of AT1 receptor agonists to treat LDS-associated aneurism.

Source: Journal of Clinical Investigation

Learning to Defuse the Aorta

losartanWhen Dr. Hal Dietz arrived at Johns Hopkins University in the 1980s, he became obsessed with helping children with Marfan syndrome, a rare and often fatal disorder that can cause the aorta, the large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart, to grow and grow until it bursts.

“Nothing we were doing seemed to make a difference in their lives,” he said.

These doomed children had a distinctive look that clearly had a genetic basis. They were typically very tall and thin, with long arms, legs and fingers. They often had unusually flexible joints, flat feet and teeth that were crowded in their mouth.

“I decided to study genetics with the sole incentive to identify the gene for Marfan syndrome and ultimately to understand the mechanism,” said Dr. Dietz, now director of the William S. Smilow Center for Marfan Syndrome Research at Johns Hopkins.

That journey has led to surprising discoveries about Marfan’s causes and a soon-to-be published clinical trial of a drug that may help its sufferers.

Dr. Dietz’s work also inspired research that may lead to a blood test that detects enlarged aortas, potentially saving thousands of lives, even among those who do not have Marfan syndrome.

Read More: The New York Times

Broken limbs, dislocated hips and joint pain: Woman on battling rare, inherited condition

edsKatie, 34, lives in Essex. Eleven years ago she was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a condition that causes her regular injuries, even in her sleep. She says:

“By the time I reached my seventh birthday, I had already broken my arm three times. I seemed to be forever falling over and hurting myself and I was always covered in bruises. Everyone just assumed I was clumsy. But, just like my mother and sister, I was hypermobile – or double-jointed as we called it back then – and I used to show off by doing the splits or bending my hand behind my elbow. Being flexible felt like a gift and it was my dream to be a dancer one day.

Then at senior school I began to feel a lot of pain in my joints, especially in my hips and shoulder blades. I had to take paracetamol two or three times a day to deal with the discomfort and I began to get regular injuries. When I was 14 I dislocated my right hip just walking down the garden path. Another time I dislocated my left ankle on the trampoline at school and had to be rushed to hospital.

By the time I reached 16 I had dislocated my hips about 50 times, but my GP thought all the problems were caused by my dance classes.

“You need to stop,” he told me. “Otherwise you’ll be in a wheelchair before you’re 40.”

My parents got me referred to a physiotherapist for a second opinion. She said I could still dance but my hips were so fragile that I should no longer walk up or downstairs. I had to have all my lessons on the ground floor at school, and at night my dad had to carry me up to my bedroom. I knew there was something seriously wrong with me, but I was worried that people would think I was a hypochondriac so I just soldiered on, all the way through school and university too.

Read More: Express

At a Catholic Hospital, a Dispute Over What a Doctor Can Do – and Say – Marfan Syndrome

marfan-syndrome-uk-logo-square150A dispute between a Colorado cardiologist and the hospital he works for has highlighted a growing area of concern among patient advocates and civil libertarians: gag rules imposed on doctors and nurses by Catholic health-care providers.

In a complaint filed Wednesday, ACLU of Colorado accused Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango, in the remote southwest corner of the state, of illegally telling doctors and other employees that they cannot discuss abortion with patients, even if a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life. The complaint was filed with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which oversees the state’s hospitals.

“Mercy Regional’s moral objection to abortion does not exempt the hospital from complying with [state and federal] laws,” the ACLU’s Sara Rich wrote to the health department, “and the hospital cannot invoke its religious status to jeopardize the health and lives of pregnant women seeking medical care.”

In a statement, hospital spokesman David Bruzzese said the complaint was “based on inaccurate information.” He said Mercy takes “very seriously the care we provide to our patients.”

The hospital chose not to respond to specific allegations in the complaint.

The case involves Dr. Michael Demos, a cardiologist for 36 years, and a female patient with a family history of Marfan syndrome, an inherited disorder of the connective tissues that has been called “one of the most feared cardiovascular complications associated with pregnancy.”

In women with the condition, the strains on the body brought on by pregnancy can cause the aorta to rupture, almost always killing the mother. Thus the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recommend that if a patient’s aorta becomes enlarged beyond a certain point, her pregnancy should be terminated.

Read More: Propulica.org

Tal Golesworthy: How I repaired my own heart

http://www.ted.com Tal Golesworthy is a boiler engineer — he knows piping and plumbing. When he needed surgery to repair a life-threatening problem with his aorta, he mixed his engineering skills with his doctors’ medical knowledge to design a better repair job.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the “Sixth Sense” wearable tech, and “Lost” producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Closed captions and translated subtitles in a variety of languages are now available on TED.com, at http://www.ted.com/translate

If you have questions or comments about this or other TED videos, please go to http://support.ted.com