Cigarette smoking has been linked with overproduction of mucus associated with chronic bronchitis, according to a study conducted by researchers in New Mexico. The study indicates cigarette smoke suppresses a protein that causes the natural death of mucus-producing cells in the airways of bronchitis patients.
The findings were published online ahead of the print edition of the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
"Although it is known that chronic mucus secretion is a hallmark of chronic bronchitis, the mechanisms underlying this condition are largely unknown," said Yohannes Tesfaigzi, PhD, director of the COPD Program at Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque. "This study shows that the airway cells that secrete mucus are sustained by cigarette smoke, which suppresses a cell death-inducing protein called Bik."
Chronic bronchitis is commonly associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of disease for 15 million individuals with COPD in the United States alone and for over 200 million people worldwide.
"Previous studies have shown overproduction of mucus cells is common in the large and small airways of cigarette smokers," Dr. Tesfaigzi said. "This overproduction in the small airways is responsible for airway obstruction and reduced lung function and in the pathogenesis of acute exacerbations of COPD.
"Our previous studies show that following inflammatory responses, up to 30 percent of cells lining the airways undergo death and return to the original cell numbers," he continued. "This cell death is aided in part by proteins, including Bik. Disruption of this recovery process may lead to persistent elevation of mucus cell numbers and contribute to airway obstruction found in chronic lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis.
"Based on these earlier findings we wanted to de
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American Thoracic Society