From: Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen - German Research Center for Environmental Health
Published March 2, 2017 10:26 AM

Cigarette smoke curbs lung's self-healing

Smoke from cigarettes blocks self-healing processes in the lungs and consequently can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, partner in the German Center for Lung Research (DZL), and their international colleagues have reported this in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Cough, bronchitis and breathing difficulties – these are the typical manifestations of COPD. Exact figures are not available, but estimates assume that ten to twelve percent of the adults over 40 years of age in Germany suffer from the disease. Experts estimate the national economic costs of the disease at almost six billion euros annually.* Scientists around the world are attempting to discover how the disease develops and what biological adjustments can be made to stop it.

One approach involves the lung's natural self-healing, which no longer takes place in COPD. “In healthy patients, the so-called WNT/beta-catenin signaling pathway is responsible for the lung's homeostasis. Until now, it was not clear why it was silenced in patients with COPD,” explains Dr. Dr. Melanie Königshoff, head of the Lung Repair and Regeneration (LRR) Research Unit of the Comprehensive Pneumology Center (CPC) at Helmholtz Zentrum München. She and her team spent the last few years tackling this question in the framework of an ERC Starting Grant and discovered that one of the Frizzled molecules– Frizzled 4 –plays an important role.

Read more at Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen - German Research Center for Environmental Health

Photo credit: Helmholtz Zentrum München

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