Cerebral Cavernous Malformations: From Two-Hit Mechanism to Developing a Targeted Therapy
Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs) are multicavernous vascular lesions affecting the central nervous system. Affected individuals have a lifetime risk of recurrent headaches, focal neurological deficits, seizures, and intracerebral hemorrhage leading to stroke. Patients tend to fall into two classes: familial cases with a known family history and multiple lesions, and; sporadic cases with no family history and single lesions. This epidemiological pattern suggests a two-hit mutational mechanism for CCM. While somatic mutations have been identified in lesions from familial patients, it is unknown if sporadic cases follow the same genetic mechanism. Using a next-generation sequencing strategy, I have identified somatic mutations from sporadic CCM lesions in the three known CCM genes, including one lesion bearing two independent mutations in CCM1. These data support a two-hit mutation mechanism in CCM for sporadic patients.
The mechanism of CCM pathogenesis (how mutations in one of the three CCM genes causes lesions to form and develop) is currently unknown. We developed mouse models that recapitulate the human disease. We have further shown that inhibition of Rho Kinase decreases the number of late-stage, multicavernous lesions. This is the first potential therapeutic strategy to specifically treat CCM, and suggests that the RhoA pathway is a central player in CCM pathogenesis.
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