Marc Sala, M.D.
Funded by the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest
Group of Proteins May Be Target for Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension
Pulmonary hypertension is elevated blood pressure of the artery leading from the heart into the lungs. It is a complication of lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, interstitial lung diseases and sleep apnea. The diagnosis is associated with increased risk of death and treatment options are very limited. We plan to define the role of the group of proteins known as c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs), and understand the role they may play in the development of pulmonary hypertension caused by a lack of oxygen. We will use a mouse model of pulmonary hypertension to better understand the role of JNK in this disease, which may lead to a new target for treatment of pulmonary hypertension.
Update: We have demonstrated in test-tube experiments that JNK2, but not a similar protein JNK1, regulates a substance called hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) that is integral to the body's response to oxygen deprivation and is involved in the development of pulmonary hypertension. We have also found a link in a mouse model between JNK2 and HIF. We have shown that mice deficient in JNK2 are protected from conditions associated with low oxygen, including pulmonary hypertension and polycythemia, an increased number of red blood cells.