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New Test for Emphysema on the Horizon
Date:3/11/2011

FRIDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- A simple and inexpensive blood test designed to uncover early signs of emphysema may one day find its place among the standard work-up that most Americans undergo during their yearly physical, new research suggests.

Although the novel screening method has shown considerable promise in preliminary investigations sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the researchers caution that more studies are needed before the test could become available.

An easily administered test that could spot emphysema even before symptoms show up would be an enormous boon to the care of smokers, who are the most vulnerable to the onset of the disabling and potentially deadly disease.

"We know from other studies that smokers who learn from objective evidence that their health is in danger are much more likely to quit," Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, chairman and professor of genetic medicine and internal medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and the study's lead author, said in a news release. "That is the only thing that will help them avoid this deadly disorder."

"We need a blood test that can be administered to the 20 percent of American adults who smoke as well as nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke -- all who may not understand their risk of developing this progressive lung disease," he added.

Crystal, who also serves as chief of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, reported his team's findings in the March 14 online issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two main conditions of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In the United States, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death and has been projected to increase as the American population ages.

The new screening mechanism for emphysema was d
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