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U-M researchers discover therapeutic target that could help patients with pulmonary fibrosis
Date:8/23/2009

patients with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.

"It remains to be seen if fibrosis is reversible," he said. "But therapeutic targeting of this pathway this may allow us to halt the progression of fibrosis and preserve lung function."

The lung disease often affects older people, Thannickal said, and its cause is generally unknown. It is possible that cumulative injuries like exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants in genetically susceptible individuals could contribute to causing fibrosis.

There is a gradual scarring of the lung, thickening and contracting the organ until it loses its ability to exchange oxygen with blood, Hecker said. Patients experience extreme fatigue, rapid weight loss, chronic cough and shortness of breath.

There are five million people worldwide that are affected by this disease, according to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. In the United States there are over 100,000 patients with Pulmonary Fibrosis.

When U-M researchers induced the fibrotic process in the mice, they discovered that the NOX4 enzyme was elevated. By knocking down that enzyme at the genetic level or inhibiting its activity, the fibrosis was stopped, Hecker said.

"So we may be able to halt lung scarring even after the injury has occurred and fibrosis is set in motion," she said. "This research provides proof of concept that we can target this pathway for therapeutic benefit, which could potentially be used in humans."


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Contact: Mary Masson
mfmasson@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert  

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