Silent killer

Inflammation from a simple infection can awaken a silent genetic defect in rats that carry it, resulting in a deadly form of pulmonary hypertension, a Stanford study shows.

Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that damages arteries in the lungs and heart. About 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year with difficulty breathing, fatigue and chest pain from the disease, the cause of which has been unknown.

“It’s a kind of one-two punch,” said Amy Tian, PhD, senior research scientist in pulmonary and critical care, and lead author of the study published Aug. 29 in Circulation.

“Basically, the first hit is the mutation, and the second hit is inflammation in the arteries of the lungs. You can be healthy and carrying this mutation, and all of the sudden you get a bacterial or viral infection, and it leads to this terrible disease.”

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