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Immune cell activity linked to worsening COPD
Date:12/15/2009

ANN ARBOR, Mich. A new study links chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, with increased activity of cells that act as sentinels to activate the body's immune system.

The University of Michigan and Veterans Affairs research adds to growing awareness of the immune system's role in COPD, a serious, progressive lung disease that affects more than 12 million Americans with wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightening and other symptoms. Understanding immune factors is key if doctors are to find better ways to detect and treat the disease early when patients might benefit most, believe some COPD researchers.

Nearly all people diagnosed with COPD have emphysema or chronic bronchitis or most commonly, both conditions. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Most people with COPD are smokers or former smokers.

"We found that dendritic cells, a type of immune cell that initiates immune responses, are in the lung interacting with lymphocytes, and that these dendritic cells seem to get more active as the disease goes on. If we could alter or stop their action, perhaps we could stop the disease from progressing," says the study's senior author Jeffrey L. Curtis, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and chief of the pulmonary and critical care medicine section at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

The study appears in the December 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Lung damage occurs well before people with COPD are aware of symptoms. By the time they seek medical help, the destructive forces of chronic lung inflammation often have taken a heavy toll. Immune cells in repetitive overdrive play a key role in that inflammation response, COPD researchers increasingly believe.

Research details

Curtis and his research team analyzed the activity of dendritic cells and other immune cells in lung tissue f
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Contact: Anne Rueter
arueter@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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