Discovery could help stem smoking-related diseases

January 11, 2012

Sufferers of smoking related lung diseases could have their debilitating symptoms reduced following the discovery of a potential new treatment.

The discovery, by researchers at the University of Melbourne, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Australia, and the Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, US, could dramatically improve treatments and slow the progression of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) which includes the incurable condition emphysema.

COPD is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe and is mostly caused by excessive smoking. Approximately 2.1 million Australians have some form of COPD. By 2050, this figure is expected to more than double to 4.5 million.

The international team identified that the protein SAA plays a key role in chronic inflammation and lung damage in COPD and also inhibits the natural effort of the lung to repair itself after smoking has stopped.

The findings have been published in the prestigious scientific journal, the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Gary Anderson from the University of Melbourne said the discovery could become a dual treatment to improve lung function at any stage of COPD.

"It has the potential to dramatically improve the lives of many people suffering these conditions and reduce the huge burden of health and hospital costs associated with their treatment," he said.

Lead author Associate Professor Steven Bozinovski from the University of Melbourne said the findings were significant because SAA was normally made in the liver, but they found that very high levels were made in the lungs of COPD patients. "It was a breakthrough for us to confirm that SAA played such a key role in the lung," he said.

The team confirmed that SAA not only caused inflammation but hindered natural healing in the lung.

Harvard's Associate Professor Bruce Levy said, they found that as the SAA interacted with its receptor it not only triggered lung inflammation, it also stopped a natural healing molecule which helped to turn off inflammation and heal the lung.

"This mechanism appears to explain one of the reasons that inflammation in COPD just never resolves despite stopping smoking," he said.

The discovery could lead to the development of a dual treatment by firstly, targeting SAA to switch off its function in the lung and secondly, adding a synthetic form of the natural healing agent to boost lung healing. Clinical development for the synthetic agent is currently under way in the US.

The proposed combined treatment could also improve the effectiveness of steroid treatment for COPD, which is effective in treating other lung diseases such as asthma.

"Steroid treatments work in conditions like asthma by turning off the production of inflammatory substances; however, our latest finding reveals that steroids actually fail to block the production of SAA and hence inflammation in the lung," Professor Anderson said.

"We believe SAA plays a critical role in why steroids are much less effective than they should be in treating COPD," he said.

It is hoped the new treatment will go to clinical trial within the next seven years.

"This is not a golden ticket to smoke," he said. "We are hopeful the combined treatment will assist patients of all stages of COPD, particularly those in stage four with constant hospital visits, to improve their quality of life, but it would not cure disease," he said.

He said the only way to prevent COPD is not to smoke. "If you are currently smoking the best thing to do is to quit as this will prevent the worsening of COPD," he said.
-end-
The research was funded in part by the National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia) and the National Institute of Health (US).

University of Melbourne

Related Smoking Articles from Brightsurf:

Smoking rates falling in adults, but stroke survivors' smoking rates remain steady
While the rate of Americans who smoke tobacco has fallen steadily over the last two decades, the rate of stroke survivors who smoke has not changed significantly.

What is your risk from smoking? Your network knows!
A new study from researchers at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication found that most people, smokers and non-smokers alike, were nowhere near accurate in their answers to questions about smoking's health effects.

Want to quit smoking? Partner up
Kicking the habit works best in pairs. That's the main message of a study presented today at EuroPrevent 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Smoking and mortality in Asia
In this analysis of data from 20 studies conducted in China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and India with more than 1 million participants, deaths associated with smoking continued to increase among men in Asia grouped by the years in which they were born.

Predictors of successfully quitting smoking among smokers registered at the quit smoking clinic at a public hospital in northeastern Malaysia
In the current issue of Family Medicine and Community Health, Nur Izzati Mohammad et al. consider how cigarette smoking is one of the risk factors leading to noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory system diseases and cancer.

Restaurant and bar smoking bans do reduce smoking, especially among the highly educated
Smoking risk drops significantly in college graduates when they live near areas that have completely banned smoking in bars and restaurants, according to a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

How the UK smoking ban increased wellbeing
Married women with children reported the largest increase in well-being following the smoking bans in the UK in 2006 and 2007 but there was no comparable increase for married men with children.

Smoking study personalizes treatment
A simple blood test is allowing Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) researchers to determine which patients should be prescribed varenicline (Chantix) to stop smoking and which patients could do just as well, and avoid side effects, by using a nicotine patch.

A biophysical smoking gun
While much about Alzheimer's disease remains a mystery, scientists do know that part of the disease's progression involves a normal protein called tau, aggregating to form ropelike inclusions within brain cells that eventually strangle the neurons.

A case where smoking helped
A mutation in the hemoglobin of a young woman in Germany was found to cause her mild anemia.

Read More: Smoking News and Smoking Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.