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Genes Give Clues to Newborn Lung Disease

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia causes long-term respiratory trouble, researchers note

THURSDAY, Oct. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Using gene-chip (microarray) analysis, researchers at Children's Hospital Boston have found new information that may help predict and treat bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), a lung disease that affects premature newborns

Little is known about how to predict, prevent or treat BPD, which can cause long-term breathing problems, according to background information in the study, published online Oct. 4 in the journal Genome Biology.

In this study -- one of the first to use gene-chip analysis to investigate diseases of premature newborns -- researchers analyzed gene activity in samples from the umbilical cords of 54 infants born at less than 28 weeks gestation. Of those, 20 developed BPD, and 34 did not.

"In the infants who went on to have BPD, we were surprised and intrigued to find a difference in a biochemical pathway (the chromatin remodeling pathway) that's also disrupted in adult chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)," senior author Dr. Isaac Kohane, director of the Children's Hospital Informatics Program, said in a prepared statement.

A group of drugs (histone deacetylase inhibitors) being developed to treat COPD may also prevent or treat BPD, he suggested.

"If you can prevent that pathway from being switched on and chewing away the lung, you might prevent BPD and perhaps improve the rocky clinical course of premature infants," Kohane said.

The researchers plan further genetic research of BPD in premature infants.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about BPD.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Children's Hospital Boston, news release, Oct. 3, 2007

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