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Cardiology Research and Practice
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 180297, 8 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/180297
Review Article

Genetic Insights into Bicuspid Aortic Valve Formation

Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1N 6N5

Received 15 February 2012; Accepted 2 April 2012

Academic Editor: Adrian H. Chester

Copyright © 2012 Brigitte Laforest and Mona Nemer. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) is the most common congenital heart defect, affecting 1-2% of the population. It is generally diagnosed late in adulthood when deterioration of the abnormal leaflet becomes clinically evident. BAV patients have an increased risk of developing serious complications, including stenosis, regurgitation, endocarditis, dilation of the aorta, aortic dissection, and aneurysm. BAV is a heritable trait, but the genetic basis underlying this cardiac malformation remains poorly understood. In the last decade, thanks to studies in animal models as well as genetic and biochemical approaches, a large number of genes that play important roles in heart development have been identified. These discoveries provided valuable insight into cardiac morphogenesis and uncovered congenital-heart-disease-causing genes. This paper will summarize the current knowledge of valve morphogenesis as well as our current understanding of the genetic pathways involved in BAV formation. The impact of these advances on human health including diagnosis of BAV and prevention of cardiovascular complications in individuals with BAV or with a family history of BAV is also discussed.