Study shows potential cause of most common emergency condition of main artery in body

Professor Toru Suzuki (pictured) from the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences has been involved in a new study to understand the underlying cause of the most common emergency condition of the aorta – the main artery in the human body.

The study, titled ‘Granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor is required for aortic dissection/intramural hematoma’ and published in the academic journal Nature Communications examines acute aortic dissection and has found a previously unknown cause of the condition could be a specific molecule in the body.

Professor Suzuki explained: “The cause of aortic dissection and its variant intramural haematoma have remained unknown, but our studies show that a molecule — the inflammatory cytokine, granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) — plays a central role in causing this condition both in experimental models and in humans.”

Acute aortic dissection is a condition where a tear in the membrane of the artery causes blood to flow into the medial layer. Aortic dissection is a potentially catastrophic condition with mortality reaching 1%/hr in the first 24 hours alone.

While recent advancements have been made in understanding the epidemiology of the condition, non-invasive diagnostic imaging techniques and methods of treatment, little is known about the pathophysiological mechanisms of the disease.

The new study shows that in patients with aortic dissection GM-CSF is expressed in the tissue at site of dissection, and that circulating levels of this cytokine are selectively elevated during these occurrences. This could suggest that GM-CSF is a cause of the condition, with the findings showing the important role of inflammation and cytokines, namely GM-CSF, as the pathophysiological mechanism underlying the onset of aortic dissection.

It is hoped that in the future it will be possible to develop new treatments for aortic dissection based on this knowledge of its causes.