What is Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension?
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a rare form of high blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is around 14 mm HG at rest. Someone with PAH has a pressure above 25 mm HG at rest. The disease is a result of blood vessels which are much too narrow. They can even become blocked. To combat this, the heart has to work extra hard to properly circulate blood through the body. Even so, less oxygen-rich blood is able to get to critical parts of the body like the brain. The heart becomes progressively weaker over time meaning PAH patients are ultimately at risk for heart failure.
Interestingly, it affects women twice as much as men, however the disease is more often fatal for men. Most are diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60. Sadly, for many, this diagnosis doesn’t come until the disease has progressed very far. Common symptoms include fatigue, chest pain, fainting, swelling in the lower extremities, and shortness of breath during physical activity.
There’s yet to be a cure for PAH, but researchers at Texas Tech have recently uncovered a new way to study this disease which could lead us closer to an effective treatment.
Progress in Research
Researchers at Texas Tech have called their new invention “organ on a chip,” or in this case, “PAH on a chip.” Basically, they have discovered how to grow cells on a chip so that they replicate PAH at the cellular level. From here they can examine how the cells are interacting with one another, investigate the effect of potential treatments, and further understand the mechanism of the disease.
By conducting this examination on a chip, researchers are able to uncover crucial data about this condition without having to initiate a clinical trial.
Especially important to note, these researchers have been able to create two separate forms of PAH on the chips – one female form and one male form. Hopefully, this will help us gain a much greater understanding of how sex impacts this disease.
The main benefit of this chip is, of course, that it should speed up the research process. For instance, they will need to recruit fewer patients for clinical trials. It should also minimize the number of animals researchers need to use for scientific tests.
Ultimately, this chip could speed up the development of novel treatments for rare diseases like PAH and it could help us better personalize these treatments for the individual patient. For instance, if researchers uncover that PAH in males and females has significant differences, they may be better able to produce effective therapies for both presentations of the disease.
While there’s still a lot to do, this progress is extremely exciting for not only the PAH community, but the entire rare disease patient population. Hopefully we will see this device become utilized for other rare diseases in the near future.
You can read more about this research here.