BLOOD PRESSURE DRUG MAY HELP PREVENT MARFAN SIDE EFFECT

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The blood pressure drug Cozaar (losartan) may help prevent a serious side effect of Marfan syndrome, according to research conducted at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and published in the journal Science. The syndrome -- a disease of the body's connective tissue that causes disproportionately long limbs and problems with the internal organs -- has also been associated with a dangerous weakening of the aorta, which can be deadly. Cozaar, the preclinical study found, could decrease the risk of this aortal damage.

"We're now talking about the ability to prevent rather than attenuate or respond to manifestations of this disease," said Harry Dietz, the study's lead researcher. "That's what makes this particularly thrilling."

In the study, mice with Marfan syndrome were given Cozaar, a placebo, or a different type of blood pressure medicine. Cozaar was shown to prevent aortic damage in newborn mice, and after six months, the older mice involved in the study had healed so completely that researchers could not distinguish them from healthy rodents, Dietz said. The other Marfan-afflicted mice, by contrast, worsened.

Approximately 30,000 Americans have Marfan syndrome. While not all those affected also have the aortic defect, said Dietz, the condition remains undiagnosed in many patients.