Patrícia Pitrez Pereira, a MIT Portugal Program Bioengineering PhD Student and researcher at the Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Coimbra (FMUC) gave an interview on "90 Segundos de Ciência".
Her project is focused on studying Progeria, a rare, fatal genetic condition characterized by an appearance of accelerated aging in children to find how the smooth muscle cells of the heart are affected by aging and which mechanisms can be used to reverse this process.
According to the researcher the main objective of her doctoral work was to study the vulnerability of smooth muscle cells in Progeria's disease. Having this in mind, a model able of reproducing the loss of these cells in Progeria's disease was developed in the laboratory.
"We discovered a molecular target that we think is behind the loss of smooth muscle cells, so we did a trial in which we treated for six weeks mices with Progeria and we saw that after these six weeks, we had more smooth muscle cells In the aorta of these mice than in the control group. "
This discovery may allow, in the future, the development of new therapies capable of restoring the amount of smooth muscle cells and improving the cardiovascular system affected by the disease.