Research Update on Loeys-Dietz Syndrome and Marfan syndrome

Dr. Hal Dietz, Victor A. McKusick Professor of Institute of Genetic Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics and Investigator of Howard Hughes Medical Institute at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Chair of the Loeys-Dietz Syndrome Foundation Medical Advisory Council (MAC), presents “Research Update on Loeys-Dietz Syndrome” at the 2012 LDSF Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Dr. Dietz discusses the latest on LDS mice model research findings.

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