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Scientists Identify Gene for Short Circuiting Excess Mucous in Lung Disease, Common Colds
Date:9/14/2009

CINCINNATI, Sept. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Scientists have identified the main genetic switch that causes excessive mucous in the lungs, a discovery that one day could ease suffering for people with chronic lung diseases like asthma and cystic fibrosis, or just those fighting the common cold.

The discovery was reported in a study posted online Sept. 14 by the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The new research sheds light on what has been a medical mystery - the precise biological reasons that the lungs in people with asthma, cystic fibrosis and other respiratory ailments clog with thick mucous.

Identifying the genetic circuits that cause mucous hyper-production gives researchers potential targets for new therapies to moderate or stop it, said Jeffrey Whitsett, M.D., the head of Neonatology, Perinatal and Pulmonary Biology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the study's senior investigator.

"Everyone has had a stuffed up nose and cough after two or three weeks of a bad cold and most over-the-counter cold medications deal with mucus," Whitsett explained. "We still don't have effective therapies for removing excess mucous, whether it's someone with a cold or chronic lung disease. That's why we still tap on the chests of kids with cystic fibrosis to try and clear it."

The current study provides an entirely new understanding of how certain cells promote chronic lung infection and excess mucous production. Scientists previously thought that, after airways were attacked by an allergic response or inflammation, mucus cells (known as goblet cells) divided and proliferated at a very fast rate - a process known as hyperplasia. Instead, the Cincinnati Children's team discovered that beneficial lung cells, called Clara cells, instead change their cell type to become goblet/mucous cells in a process called metaplasia.

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SOURCE Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
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