Tyerman, Zachary; Dahl, Jolian; Shannon, Alexander; Johnston, W. Forrest; Pope, Nicholas H.; Lu, Guanyi; Upchurch, Gilbert R., Jr.; Ailawadi, Gorav; Salmon, Morgan
According to the Center for Disease Control, aortic aneurysms (AAs) were considered a leading cause of death in all races and both sexes from 1999-2016. An aneurysm forms as a result of progressive weakening and eventual dilation of the aorta, which can rupture or tear once it reaches a critical diameter. Aneurysms of the descending aorta in the chest, called descending thoracic aortic aneurysms (dTAA), make up a large proportion of aneurysm cases in the United States. Uncontained dTAA rupture is almost universally lethal, and elective repair has a high rate of morbidity and mortality. The purpose of our model is to study dTAA specifically, to elucidate the pathophysiology of dTAA and to search for molecular targets to halt the growth or reduce the size of dTAA. By having a murine model to study thoracic pathology precisely, targeted therapies can be developed to specifically test dTAA. The method is based on the placement of porcine pancreatic elastase (PPE) directly on the outer murine aortic wall after surgical exposure. This creates a destructive and inflammatory reaction, which weakens the aortic wall and allows for aneurysm formation over weeks to months. Though murine models possess limitations, our dTAA model produces robust aneurysms of predictable size. Furthermore, this model can be used to test genetic and pharmaceutical targets which may arrest dTAA growth or prevent rupture. In human patients, interventions such as these could help avoid aneurysm rupture, and difficult surgical intervention.