(Boston) A study led by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) has shown that a compound used in some skin creams may halt the progression of emphysema and reverse some of the damage caused by the disease. When the compound Gly-His-Lys (GHK) was applied to lung cells from patients with emphysema, normal gene activity in altered cells was restored and damaged aspects of cellular function were repaired.
The study, which is published in BioMed Central's open access journal Genome Medicine, also demonstrates the potential impact of using genomic technologies to identify new possible treatments for diseases using existing drugs and compounds.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic, progressive lung disease that comprises emphysema, small airway obstruction and/or chronic bronchitis leading to the loss of lung function. Tobacco smoke and other irritants cause oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, which over time destroys lung alveolar cells and results in emphysema. Without these cells, the lungs are not able to efficiently exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide, causing shortness of breath and low blood oxygen levels. According to the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States and results in approximately 120,000 deaths each year. While there are treatments and lifestyle changes that can help people cope with COPD, there currently is no cure and there are no effective therapies to reduce the rate of lung function decline that occurs as the disease progresses.
"Given the high costs, both direct and indirect, associated with COPD, there is an urgent need to identify novel approaches to treat the disease," said Avrum Spira, MD, MSc, Alexander Graham Bell professor of medicine and chief of the division of computational biomedicine at BUSM, who was one of the study's senior leaders. Spira also i
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Boston University Medical Center