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Malfunction Of Key Growth Factor Increases Mortality Rate From Pulmonary Fibrosis In Blacks

The mortality rate from pulmonary fibrosis in African-Americans is almost twice as high as that found in the Caucasians//. For many years now, researchers have been searching for an explanation for this difference. Now physiologist from Belarus says that she has found why this racial difference exists.

"Pulmonary fibrosis is a deadly, very complex disease where the lung's air sacs are replaced by tough fibrotic tissue," Galina Bogatkevich said. Using modern physiological technology called proteomics, Bogatkevich's laboratory compared healthy and diseased lung fluid and found that a key growth factor that is supposed to inhibit fibrotic growth is malfunctioning. "This is the first time we've identified a physiological difference that parallels the profound differences between black and whites in the severity of the disease and prognosis," she said in an American Physiological Society session at Experimental Biology in San Francisco. Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) strikes nine of out 10 patients with systemic sclerosis or scleroderma, a group of diseases involving abnormal growth of the connective tissue that supports the skin and internal organs. Current thinking is that pulmonary fibrosis is caused by micro injury to the lung as part of the earlier diseases' progress. "But we also know that PF is a 'proteomic disease' – that is its pathogenesis depends on the imbalance in expression and communication between many proteins," Bogatkevich noted. Using the proteomic approach they found that the amount of antifibrotic glycoprotein hypatocyte growth factor (HGF) was reduced in the blood and epithelial lining fluid of African-American scleroderma patients than in Caucasians. And the latest study presented in San Francisco "demonstrates that antifibrotic effects of HGF are impaired in lung fibroblasts isolated from Africa-Americans may be due to the deficiency in c-Met receptor function," Bogatkevich said. "This may explain, in part, the greater severity and worse progn
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