Treatment breakthrough for ‘smoker’s lung’

Good news for smokers according to this New Scientist article:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition describing a range of severe inflammatory diseases of the lungs including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. More than 90% of cases are caused by cigarette smoking, and even when a smoker quits the habit, the disease continues, becoming progressively worse – often until the patient dies from respiratory failure.

COPD currently kills more than 30,000 people in the UK every year and is predicted to kill over six million worldwide by 2020, becoming the world’s third biggest killer.

To date, it has only been possible to ease the symptoms of COPD. Researchers have failed to understand why steroids – an effective treatment for asthma-related lung inflammation – have proved ineffective in treating COPD. Now, scientists at Imperial College London, UK, have taken the first step towards a cure for the fatal disease by discovering why it is resistant to steroid treatment.

Peter Barnes, professor of thoracic medicine, and colleagues examined the role of an enzyme in the lung cells called HDAC2, which “switches off” the genes responsible for causing inflammation. Usually, steroidal drugs are able to facilitate this process by providing a molecular pathway between HDAC2 and the appropriate genes. But Barnes discovered that levels of HDAC2 were very low in COPD patients, which was why steroids had little effect.

This is the kind of news that makes me wonder why I bother to take care of myself.

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