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Lung disease

Irish scientists find potential new treatment for smoking-related diseases

The new approach could help save patients with conditions often associated with long-term smoking.

RESEARCHERS AT UNIVERSITY College Dublin have found a potential new treatment for chronic lung diseases often associated with smoking.

The approach could help tackle obstructive lung conditions including emphysema and chronic bronchities, which currently affect more than 100,000 people in Ireland.

It would work by targeting a protein in the blood linked with pulmonary hypertension – high blood pressure in arteries in the lungs which can be fatal.

The protein called ‘gremlin’ is produced by the body when oxygen levels in the lungs are reduced, for example by an obstructive condition. Professor Paul McLoughlin at the UCD School of Medicine said:

When the lung is starved of oxygen, blood pressure in the arteries of the lung increases which damages blood vessels and makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood, leading in many cases to heart failure and premature death.

Scientists at the UCD School of Medicine found that when the genes of laboratory mice were altered to reduce the production of gremlin, the mice were protected from pulmonary hypertension.

“These research findings suggest the potential for additional novel treatments of patients by designing drugs that block the actions of gremlin in the lung,” Prof McLoughlin said.

It’s estimated that chronic obstructive lung diseases will be the third most common cause of death worldwide by 2020, as smoking rates in the developing world increase.

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