Dublin research into emphysema


SUFFERERS FROM the potentially deadly lung disease emphysema could benefit from new research carried out in Ireland.

Emphysema is caused by the inflammation of the alveoli, the sponge-like tissue that takes oxygen into the lungs and releases it as carbon dioxide. The disease causes shortness of breath in its mild form. In its severest form, patients must use an oxygen mask and often need a lung transplant.

It is incurable and irreversible in its worst forms and can be fatal.

The research has been carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons in conjunction with Beaumont Hospital and Dublin City University. It has been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in the US.

Researchers have identified the means by which the absence of a protein called alpha-1 leads to an increase in the white blood cell count. It, in turn, causes inflammation in the lungs.

They have identified an augmentation therapy where the natural alpha-1 protein is given intravenously, leading to a decrease in the white blood cells going into the lungs. The clinical data for the trial has not been identified yet, but early indications are promising.