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

ss cheese" appearance of the lungs. The alveoli are where critical gas exchanges occur: blood in the capillaries brings carbon dioxide from the rest of the body for release into the air sacs, and the oxygen in the sacs (taken in from breathing) is taken up by the blood and transported to the rest of the body.

As the sacs are destroyed, people develop shortness of breath because they cannot take in enough oxygen to feed the body and eventually cannot remove carbon dioxide from the blood.

Dr. Crystal and his colleagues reasoned that as capillaries surrounding the air sacs are being injured, the debris would be carried out by the blood supply and could potentially be quantified as a disease biomarker. So they began to look for evidence of what they called endothelial microparticles (EMP).

"Our blood vessels are always being replenished, so we all have some level of EMPs in our blood," he says. "What we are looking for are elevated levels of EMPs. For smokers, this is the equivalent of a smoke detector sounding its alarm; elevated levels of EMPs suggest their air sacs are being injured and it is time to act."

To do this, the researchers enrolled three groups of people -- healthy nonsmokers, healthy smokers, and smokers with early evidence of lung destruction. Study participants had their medical histories taken, and to gauge lung function in these participants, all underwent two pulmonary function tests. One is spirometry, which measures the volume and speed of air as it is inhaled and exhaled from the lungs. The other, known as DLCO, is the only lung function test available today that can detect emphysema in patients. It uses a machine that measures the ability of gases to diffuse across the alveolar-capillary membrane.

The researchers found a 95 percent positive correlation between elevated EMPs in the blood and an abnormal DLCO test result, meaning that it detected nearly all verified cases of early emphysema in participan
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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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