New research suggests abdominal aortic aneurysm will afflict millions of baby boomers

People over 55, a demographic group that will soon include a large percentage of baby boomers, are at highest risk to develop an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a little-known but potentially fatal disease that affects the segment of the aorta that runs through the abdomen. The most deadly complication is rupture, a condition in which the aneurysm breaks open and profuse bleeding results. To date, however, the exact cause of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) remains unknown, and in its early stages, the disease often produces few, if any, symptoms.

To combat this deadly disease before it reaches epidemic proportions, researchers have made tremendous strides in diagnosing, preventing and treating cases of AAA. To highlight the latest advances in understanding this disorder, the New York Academy of Sciences and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons are cosponsoring a three-day conference, The Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Genetics, Pathophysiology, and Molecular Biology on April 3-5 at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, New York, Amsterdam & 113th street in Manhattan.

More than forty investigators from the U.S., England, Denmark, Sweden, Japan and other countries are expected to attend. The conference is a sequel to a groundbreaking symposium that was held ten years earlier and will examine the kinds of dramatic improvements in diagnosis, prevention of complications and treatment that did not exist a decade earlier.

New Insights into Complex but Poorly Understood Disease

"The incidence and prevalence of AAA is rising," observed Gilbert Upchurch of the University of Michigan, one of the organizers of the conference. Despite this, he notes that much work remains to be done and that the science behind it "is in its infancy."

By taking an interdisciplinary approach that integrates new insights into the etiology and pathology of this disease, however, researchers hope to unlock the mysteries of AAA. "Abdominal aortic aneurysm is a multifactorial disease, involving genetic susceptibilities, features of autoimmunity, and environmental influences like smoking," added Dr. M. David Tilson III of Columbia University and the St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, a co-organizer of the meeting.

Consisting of five plenary sessions and poster sessions, the symposium will present the latest research to unravel the causes and improve treatments for this relatively common but poorly understood disorder. The conference will cover topics such as epidemiology, enzymology, methods for surgical repair, development of new experimental models, and the genetics of the disorder.

Among the topics to be discussed:

  • Genetic risk factors likely to contribute to the disease and rapid aneurysm growth
  • New surgical methods for repair and the availability of experimental models for AAA study
  • Assessing the benefits of risk of rupture assessment at different ages and thresholds of abdominal aortic aneurysm in the context of epidemiologic studies
  • Epidemiology and pharmacological approaches to prevent AAA enlargement and rupture
  • The use of animal models for study and their underlying pathophysiology and biomechanical aspects.
  • Enzymology; another approach to interventional pharmacology
  • The biological aspects of endovascular devices to repair abdominal aortic aneurysm.
  • Molecular biology and immunology in abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Among the speakers are: Craig Basson, M.D., Ph.D., Weill Medical College, Cornell University; Ramon Berguer, M.D., Ph.D., University of Michigan; Gillian W. Cockerill, Ph.D., St. George's Hospital London, U.K.; Norman R. Hertzer, M.D., The Cleveland Clinic Foundation; Jes Lindholt, M.D., Ph.D., Viborg Hospital, Denmark; William Pearce, M.D., Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; Marc Schermerhorn, M.D., Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Jesper Swedenborg, M.D., Ph.D., Vessel Surgery, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden; Robert Thompson, M.D., FACS, Washington University School of Medicine; David Vorp, Ph.D., McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine; Momtaz Wassef, Ph.D., National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; and Koichi Yoshimura, M.D., Ph.D., Yamaguchi University School of Medicine, Japan.

The meeting will be of most interest to physicians, clinical and molecular geneticists, epidemiologists and scientists who are involved in basic and clinical research in abdominal aortic aneurysms. It was organized by M. David Tilson III, M.D., Columbia University and the St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center; Helena Kuivaniemi, M.D., Ph.D., Wayne State University School of Medicine; and Gilbert R. Upchurch, Jr., M.D., University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center.


Support for this conference was made possible by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute/NIH, Anonymous, Cook Group Inc., Endologix, Macy Foundation, Medtronic, W. L. Gore and Yamaguchi University.

For an overview, abstracts, and program information about this meeting, please visit our preBriefing at

Seating is limited. To RSVP, please contact [email protected] or call (212) 838 0230 x257.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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