In a preliminary study, the researchers examined two diseased lungs removed from end-stage COPD patients undergoing lung transplants. COPD develops as a result of exposure to toxins such as cigarette smoke, resulting in inflammation to the small airways and destruction of elastic fibers within alveoli. The patients suffered from emphysema.
The team used hyperpolarized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to characterize the regions of the lung showing moderate emphysema and regions showing severe emphysema. They found that new elastin synthesis was initiated in moderately diseased specimens.
The researchers did a second study using 10 lungs from end-stage COPD patients who had undergone transplants. Again, they found the greatest amount of elastin gene expression in the moderately diseased areas of the lungs, Woods said. There was no variability in elastin levels within the control lungs.
Further, the team found that the increase in elastin expression occurred on the alveolar walls, the same area where elastin occurs during the lung's development in children. This shows the lung is attempting to repair the elastic fibers in end-stage emphysema, the authors concluded.
Source:American Physiological Society