Jean-Francois Jasmin, PhD

American Lung Association Scholar: Disorders of the Lung’s Blood Vessels and Acute Lung Injury

Jean-Francois Jasmin, PhD, wants to improve survival rates for people with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a disease of high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. PAH is progressive and life-threatening because the pressure in a patient's pulmonary arteries rises to dangerously high levels, putting a strain on the heart. None of the current drugs cure or halt the progression of this disease.

"Novel diagnostics and treatments are desperately needed for this serious illness," Dr. Jasmin says. The prognosis for PAH patients is poor. Currently, approximately 50 per­cent of people diagnosed with PAH die within five years.

Dr. Jasmin is studying the effect of Caveolin-1 on PAH. Caveolin-1, or Cav-1, is a membrane protein that has recently been shown to be involved in the regulation of PAH. Decreases in Cav-1 have been reported in patients with severe PAH.

In 2006, Dr. Jasmin published a paper showing that in hypertensive rats, injections of a Cav-1-mimetic peptide prevented the development of PAH and the enlarged right heart ventricle that accompanies it.

While preventing PAH is also a goal in humans, it will be difficult to achieve, Dr. Jasmin notes. "Because symptoms develop very gradually, most cases of human PAH are usually advanced by the time of diagnosis," he said.

With help from an American Lung Association Biomedical Research Grant, Dr. Jasmin will test whether he can reverse the course of PAH. He is treating hypertensive rodents at various stages of the disease with a Cav-1-mimetic peptide to see at which point the treatment may decrease pressure in the arteries and improve survival.

"This grant will help us push forward," he says. "It's a key study in the development of treatment for PAH. We showed we can prevent the disease, and now we need to prove we can reverse it, and then show that in different models. This funding from the American Lung Association is a good platform for us to go further in our research."