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Asthma and smoker's lung: dry airways play a key role
Date:4/7/2008

Dry airways may not only play a central role in the development of the inherited lung disease cystic fibrosis, but also in much more common acquired chronic lung diseases such as asthma and smokers lung, the cigarette smoke-induced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This is the conclusion reached by scientists at Heidelberg University Hospital under the direction of Assistant Professor Dr. Marcus Mall from the Department of Pediatrics at Heidelberg University Hospital and Professor Dr. Richard Boucher of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In animal studies, they found that insufficient hydration of the airway surfaces leads to pathologies typical of chronic obstructive lung diseases in humans.

Thus, these findings point to a new approach for the treatment of these diseases, which are listed by the World Health Organization WHO as the fourth leading cause of death world-wide. There are currently no causal therapies available for treating these diseases; only the symptoms such as shortness of breath and oxygen deficiency can be treated. The results of the study have now been published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Cystic fibrosis gene causes airways to dry out and thickens mucus

In the hereditary disease cystic fibrosis, which affects about 8,000 people in Germany (about 80,000 people in the Western world), a defective gene causes a change in the transport of salt and water across the mucosal surfaces in the lungs, the intestine and other organs, and thus produce a change in the composition of the secretions.

Using a mouse model he developed, Dr. Mall succeeded in proving a direct relationship between the defective gene and development of lung disease certain sodium channels on the surface of airway cells that are responsible for the resorption of salt and water are hyperactive. The cells absorb too much fluid, causing the airway surfaces to dry out. This
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Contact: Dr. Annette Tuffs
annette.tuffs@med.uni-heidelberg.de
49-622-156-4536
University Hospital Heidelberg
Source:Eurekalert

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