Endothelin Receptor Blockers:
Pulmonary hypertension (PH) occurs when blood vessels to the lungs become narrowed, resulting in higher pressure through the arteries. The heart works harder to pump blood to the lungs as the disease get progressively worse, causing fatigue (particularly while exercising), a racing pulse, heart palpitations, swelling, and other challenges.
While no cure is yet available, endothelin receptor blockers, or antagonists, generally referred to as ERAs, are often able to slow PH progression and restore some health by reducing the amount of endothelin in the blood. Too much endothelin is what causes the blood vessels to constrict, so the introduction of ERAs heralded a new era in treatment options for PH.
Photos: Dr. Masashi Yanagisawa (left) and Dr. Fernando Torres
Researchers affiliated with UT Southwestern were leaders in identifying endothelin and its critical role in the biology of the heart and lungs that eventually made possible the development of ERAs.
Dr. Masashi Yanagisawa was on the UT Southwestern team that first broke open the biology of endothelin and identified a crucial peptide. The peptide was then synthesized, prompting a worldwide explosion of research into endothelin and the discovery of receptors that allowed development of blockers.
Among the generation of researchers accepting the hand-off of this discovery was UT Southwestern’s Dr. Fernando Torres, whose work in identifying the efficacy and safety issues associated with these blockers was instrumental in helping bring them to market.