Study Suggests Genetic Factors in Smoking may Increase Risk of Chronic Bronchitis

Expert Rev Resp Med. 2008;2(2):145-147. 

In This Article

Autoimmunity Confirmed as a Factor in Chronic Pulmonary Disease

A group of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (PA, USA) have reported solid evidence that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an autoimmune disease in many patients. Previous speculation that COPD may have an autoimmune component has remained unproven until now. The findings, reported recently in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, hold particular relevance regarding possible future treatments, including a clinical trial of inhaled ciclosporin now enrolling patients at the University of Pittsburgh.

"...the NIH estimates that 12 million adults have a current diagnosis of COPD, with an additonal 12 million unaware that they have the disorder."

The fourth-leading cause of death and second-leading cause of disability in the USA, the NIH estimates that 12 million adults have a current diagnosis of COPD, with an additional 12 million unaware that they have the disorder.

"COPD damages the lung tissue, expanding and breaking down the walls of air sacs, which hinders air flow out of the lungs and the transfer of oxygen into the blood," said Steven Duncan, a senior author of the study and professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "This new work shows that in some patients with COPD, immune system antibodies attack the cells that line the airways and air sacs of the lungs called epithelial cells."

Investigators at the Emphysema Research Center are conducting a clinical trial of an inhaled form of ciclosporin, long used to suppress the immune system in transplant patients.

Source: Feghali-Bostwick CA, Gadgil AS, Otterbein LE et al. Autoantibodies in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med. 177, 156-163 (2008).

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