Dry airways may be key to lung disease

April 8, 2008 at 7:15 PM
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HEIDELBERG, Germany, April 8 (UPI) -- German and U.S. researchers suggest dry airways may be the culprit in a number of lung diseases.

Dr. Marcus Mall of the Heidelberg University Hospital and Dr. Richard Boucher of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say animal studies show insufficient hydration of airway surfaces leads to pathologies typical of a number of lung diseases -- including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The animal studies looked at the effect of dehydration -- a factor in cystic fibrosis due to a gene affecting transport of salt and water across the mucosal surfaces in the lungs other organs. The cells absorb too much fluid, causing the airway surfaces to dry out. This gives rise to thick "dry" mucus that cannot be cleared. As a consequence, the respiratory tract gets clogged with mucus giving rise to chronic pulmonary inflammation and respiratory insufficiency.

The results indicate that improving hydration of airway surfaces and thus mucus clearance of the lungs -- for example by blocking the sodium channels in the cells of the respiratory tract -- could be a successful strategy for treating chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases of different etiologies.

The study is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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