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BUSM researchers find potential key to halt progression, reverse damage from emphysema
Date:8/31/2012

s a physician in the pulmonary, critical care and allergy department at Boston Medical Center.

Researchers took cells from lungs donated by patients undergoing a double lung transplant because their lungs were irrevocably damaged by COPD and found 127 genes had changes in activity as disease severity increased within the lung. The genes that showed increased activity included several that are associated with inflammation, such as those involved in signalling to B-cells (the immune system cells that make antibodies).

In contrast, the genes involved in maintaining cellular structure and normal cellular function, along with the growth factors TGFβ and VEGF, were down-regulated and showed decreased activity. Genes that control the ability of the cells to stick together (cell adhesion), produce the protein matrix that normally surrounds the cells and promote the normal association between lung cells and blood vessels were among the genes in this category.

Using genomic technologies and computational methods, the researchers identified genetic activity defects that occur as emphysema progresses and matched these defects with compounds that could reverse the damage. "Our study results showed that the way genes were affected by the compound GHK, a drug identified in the 1970s, was the complete opposite of the pattern we had seen in the cells damaged by emphysema," said Marc Lenburg, PhD, associate professor in computational biomedicine and bioinformatics at BUSM and one of the study's senior authors.

"What got us especially excited was that previous studies had shown that GHK could accelerate wound repair when applied to the skin," said Joshua Campbell, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow working with Spira and Lenburg who served as the study's first author. "This made us think that GHK could have potential as a therapy for COPD."

"When we tested GHK on cells from the damaged lungs of smokers with COPD, we saw an improvement in
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Contact: Jenny Eriksen
jenny.eriksen@bmc.org
617-638-6841
Boston University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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