A Decade of Discovery in the Genetic Understanding of Thoracic Aortic Disease

Gregor Andelfinger, Bart Loeys, Hal Dietz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Aortic aneurysms are responsible for a significant number of all deaths in Western countries. In this review we provide a perspective on the important progress made over the past decade in the understanding of the genetics of this condition, with an emphasis on the more frequent forms of vascular smooth muscle and transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) signalling alterations. For several nonsyndromic and syndromic forms of thoracic aortic disease, a genetic basis has now been identified, with 3 main pathomechanisms that have emerged: perturbation of the TGF-β signalling pathway, disruption of the vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) contractile apparatus, and impairment of extracellular matrix synthesis. Because smooth muscle cells and proteins of the extracellular matrix directly regulate TGF-β signalling, this latter pathway emerges as a key component of thoracic aortic disease initiation and progression. These discoveries have revolutionized our understanding of thoracic aortic disease and provided inroads toward gene-specific stratification of treatment. Last, we outline how these genetic findings are translated into novel pharmaceutical approaches for thoracic aortic disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-25
Number of pages13
JournalCanadian Journal of Cardiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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