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Abdominal aneurysms
The first step in curing a disease: meet and talk
Edward R. Winstead

Forty-five years after Albert Einstein died of a ruptured blood vessel in his abdomen, scientists have launched a new collaboration to study abdominal aortic aneurysms. In September, the disease killed actor George C. Scott. Facing a possible crisis in an aging population, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) last fall awarded four-year grants supporting research on all aspects of the disease, from the genes involved to possible therapies. This week the grantees met in Bethesda, Maryland, at the first scientific meeting in the United States devoted to these aneurysms.

The meeting was a planning and strategizing session in which investigators presented theories about the origin and development of the disease, preliminary findings, and what they hope to accomplish over the next four years. Brainstorming was much in evidence.

The two-dozen investigators included cell biologists, vascular surgeons, immunologists, geneticists and biomedical engineers. They brought competing and complementary perspectives to aneurysm research. Interestingly, most had never met before the meeting. "It was the first time the field's leading researchers had all been together in the same room," said Momtaz Wassef of the NHLBI, who oversaw the selection and awarding of the grants last fall.

None of the mysteries about the pathogenesis of the disease was unraveled at the meeting. In fact, the investigators could not even agree on what size bulge constitutes a clinical aneurysm. But the meeting was intended not to answer questions but to build a spirit of collaboration among the investigators, and it clearly did. The group formally reconvenes in 2002.

See related GNN article
»Investigating George C. Scott's Killer

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