Date of Award

3-25-2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)

First Advisor

Keith Ruskin

Abstract

Multiple modulating genes and environmental factors have been implicated in the pathogenesis of high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). However, at the present time, there exists an incomplete understanding of the molecular mechanisms and pathways which underlie constitutional susceptibility. Genome-wide measurements of gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were performed using microarray technology. Comparison of gene expression profiles of HAPE-susceptible and resistant individuals resulted in the identification of several previously undescribed candidate genes. RhoA and Rho-kinase (ROCK), regulators of vascular smooth muscle contraction, were differentially regulated in the HAPE-susceptible cohort, as compared to both HAPE-resistant patients with acute mountain sickness (AMS+) and healthy controls (p=0.0014; p=0.0020). Furthermore, biological pathways involving RhoA and Rho-kinase were strongly upregulated in subjects with HAPE. These findings represent the first description of the RhoA/Rho-kinase signaling pathway in HAPE. Currently, few pharmacologic therapies have been demonstrated to be effective in the prevention and treatment of HAPE. The results of this study provide early evidence that Fasudil, a selective Rho-kinase inhibitor, may represent a novel therapeutic intervention effective in the prevention and/or treatment of high-altitude pulmonary edema.

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