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Simple blood test detects early emphysema in smokers before symptoms appear
Date:3/10/2011

NEW YORK (March 11, 2011) -- During a regular annual physical exam, blood is usually drawn to check the health of a person's heart, kidneys and liver. Now, researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center say a blood test that detects the early development of emphysema -- well before symptoms occur -- may someday also be offered.

In the March 14 online edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the researchers say that because most cases of emphysema are caused by smoking, the test they are developing can warn smokers about impending development of the untreatable disease -- which is currently a major cause of disability and death in the U.S.

Not all smokers develop emphysema, but those who find out they are at risk will be motivated to quit to halt progression of the disease, says the study's lead investigator, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, chairman and professor of genetic medicine and the Bruce Webster Professor of Internal Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

"We know, from other studies, that smokers who learn from objective evidence that their health is in danger are much more likely to quit," he says. "That is the only thing that will help them avoid this deadly disorder."

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the twin disorders that make up chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is now the fourth leading cause of death in Americans. Given the aging population, COPD is soon expected to move up to third in mortality prevalence, Dr. Crystal says.

The new test measures particles that are shed by tiny blood vessels known as capillaries that surround air sacs (alveoli) in lungs. These particles are debris shed by ongoing injury to the air sacs -- damage that eventually results in devastation of the sacs and the "Swi
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Contact: John Rodgers
jdr2001@med.cornell.edu
212-821-0560
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College
Source:Eurekalert

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