Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a scarring disease without a cure, irreparably damaging the ability of the tissue to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream. This disease affects more than five million people worldwide, killing forty thousand of these every year. In a paper in the forthcoming issue of the open-access journal PLoS Medicine, researchers identified a protein called osteopontin that may play a key role in the lethal disease. Identification of this protein could lead to the development of new treatments for IPF.
Annie Pardo and colleagues, based in University Medical Centres in Pittsburgh and Mexico City, took samples from a number of people with IPF in order to analyse the pattern of gene expression in the lungs. They discovered that osteopontin was more prevalent in the lungs of people with the disease than those without it. Examining the role of this protein further, the researchers found that it increased the proliferation and movement of cells involved in lung fibrosis. These findings reinforce previous research that suggested mice are protected from a similar lung disease if they do not have the gene for osteopontin.
The results of the study are important because there is currently no effective medical treatment for this disease. The results suggest that treatment may be possible through drugs specifically directed against osteopontin. By highlighting the role of this protein, the study could also aid the early detection of a disease that is frequently misdiagnosed and little understood.
Source: Eurekalert & othersLast reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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