NORD gratefully acknowledges Pawel Stankiewicz, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular & Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, for assistance in the preparation of this report.
Alveolar capillary dysplasia with misalignment of the pulmonary veins (ACDMPV, OMIM# 265380) is a very rare disorder that is present at birth (congenital). Infants experience severe, life-threatening breathing problems and high blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs. These problems may occur within a few hours of birth. Almost all infants pass away within the first month of life. Very rarely, the disorder presents later (late-onset form). Infants often have additional symptoms including symptoms of the gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system and genitourinary system. In the vast majority of infants, AVDMPV is caused by changes (mutations) in the FOXF1 gene or in a loss of genetic material (deletion) that contains the FOXF1 gene or involves its distant regulatory genomic region (enhancer). The disorder is usually not inherited, but has in specific instances been seen to run in families.
Within the first few days after birth, infants with ACDMPV develop severe breathing problems and lack of oxygen in the blood (hypoxemia). They experience shortness of breath and cyanosis, a condition marked by abnormal bluish discoloration of the skin that occurs because of low levels of circulating oxygen in the blood. High blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs (pulmonary hypertension) will also occur. Breathing issues become progressively worse and most infants experience respiratory failure. Very rarely, infants may not show signs of the disorder until weeks or even months after birth, usually when severe, untreatable pulmonary hypertension is noted.
Affected infants often have additional symptoms including gastrointestinal symptoms such as twisting of the large intestines, genitourinary symptoms such as swelling of the kidneys because of urine backing up (hydronephrosis), cardiovascular symptoms such as underdevelopment of the left side of the heart as well as musculoskeletal systems.
In some instances, ACDMPV is caused by a mutation in the FOXF1 gene, or by a loss of genetic material on chromosome 16 that includes the FOXF1 gene or genes that regulate the expression of the FOXF1 gene. Genes provide instructions for creating proteins that play a critical role in many functions of the body. When a mutation of a gene occurs, the protein product may be faulty or inefficient. Depending upon the functions of the particular protein, this can affect many organ systems of the body. For a minority of infants (~10%) with ACDMPV, the cause is unknown. In most instances the disorder is sporadic, which means that the genetic changes occur at the time of fertilization and are not inherited from the parents. There are very rare instances where ACDMPV has run in families and can be inherited.
The FOXF1 gene creates a protein that is a type of transcription factor. Transcription factors are proteins that help to control which genes are turned on and which genes are turned off. They do this by binding with DNA and other proteins. When the FOXF1 gene is altered it does not produce enough of the transcription factor that it is supposed to (or it creates a damaged or inefficient version of it). The lack of this protein causes many problems, particularly affecting the small blood vessels within the lungs.
In infants with ACDMPV, the alveolar capillaries fail to develop properly. These capillaries are described as being misaligned or malpositioned. Alveolar refers to the alveoli, the millions of tiny air sacs that are found throughout the lungs. The capillaries are very tiny blood vessels that connect the alveoli to larger blood vessels. When a person breathes in air, oxygen travels to the lungs and into the alveoli. It passes through the walls of the alveoli into the capillaries and into the bloodstream to be carried throughout the body. In addition, carbon dioxide passes from the bloodstream into the alveoli to be sent out of the body when a person breathes out. Because the alveoli capillaries do not develop properly in infants with ACDMPV, sufficient levels of oxygen cannot be delivered to the tissues of the body and not all of the carbon dioxide can be expelled from the body.
A specific process that may be associated with ACDMPV is genetic imprinting. Everyone has two copies of every gene – one received from the father and one received from the mother. In most cases, both genes are “turned on” or active. However, some genes are preferentially silenced or “turned off” based upon which parent that gene came from (genomic imprinting). Usually, genomic imprinting is controlled by chemical switches in DNA through a process called methylation. Proper genetic imprinting is necessary for normal development. Defective imprinting has been associated with several disorders. In defective imprinting, the wrong gene is turned on or the wrong one is turned off.
ACDMPV is a very rare disorder. The incidence and prevalence is unknown. About 200 people with this disorder have been reported in the medical literature. However, many infants may go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, so determining the true frequency of ACDMPV in the general population is difficult.
ACDMPV may be suspected in any infant who presents with severe cyanosis (hypoxemia) and high pulmonary blood pressure (pulmonary hypertension) that is unresponsive to treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The diagnosis is confirmed through an examination of lung tissue by an experienced pathologist for characteristic cellular changes. The characteristics that a pathologist will look for can include a relative lack of capillaries near the alveoli, thickening of the walls (septa) of alveoli, and increased “muscularization” of the small arteries of the lungs (arterioles).
Molecular genetic testing can confirm a diagnosis of ACDMPV in approximately 90% of cases. This testing should also be done on parents to determine whether the parents carry the genetic abnormality. Molecular genetic testing can detect changes in or affecting the FOXF1 gene known to cause this disorder, but is available only as a diagnostic service at specialized laboratories.
Various treatments have been tried in infants with ACDMPV including mechanical ventilation, nitric oxide, and extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). These are standard treatments for infants with other disorders that cause respiratory distress, but they have been ineffective in treating infants with ACDMPV.
Genetic counseling may be of benefit for affected individuals and their families. Psychosocial support for the entire family is essential as well.
As researchers learn more about the underlying genetic factors that cause ACDMPV (e.g. genetic changes affecting the FOXF1 gene and genetic imprinting), new avenues for developing treatments are beginning to emerge. Researchers are currently study the disorder in hope of developing effective treatments.
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