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Life-Threatening Gene Defect Located by University of Texas Health Science Center Researchers  
11/12/2007 1:01:32 AM

HOUSTON – (Nov. 11, 2007)—A research team led by scientists at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston has identified a defective gene that affects vascular smooth-muscle cells in people who suffer from hereditary thoracic aortic disease, which can kill victims with little warning in the prime of their lives. Thoracic aortic disease, specifically thoracic aortic aneurysms leading to aortic dissections, is the 15th leading cause of death in the country, killing up to 20,000 people a year. Actor John Ritter (age 54 years) and “Rent” creator Jonathan Larson (age 35 years) both died from the disease. Cardiac surgeons in the Texas Medical Center – including Michael DeBakey. M.D., and Denton Cooley, M.D. – pioneered the surgical repair of thoracic aortic disease.
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