Research findings breathe new life into lung disease

It turns out the muscle cells on the outside of blood vessels have been wrongly accused for instigating lung disease. New research shows that while these muscle cells are responsible for constricting or dilating the blood vessels, they are not responsible for sensing the amount of oxygen that gets to the lungs. That message comes from the endothelial cells – special cells that line the blood vessels – along a "signalling pathway."

When a person is low on oxygen, blood vessels throughout the body expand to improve the delivery of this vital molecule to the tissues. The one exception is that when oxygen is low in the lungs, blood vessels there constrict. When this condition persists, it causes – a where the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs become smaller – and makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood through the lungs. This leads to enlargement of the right heart, called right heart failure.

Dr. Wolfgang Kuebler, a Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute scientist at St. Michael's Hospital, has found that the endothelial cells play a much larger role in the constriction of blood vessels in response to the lack of oxygen and in subsequent pulmonary hypertension, than previously believed. The findings of his study, which was conducted on mice, have been published online in the , a high impact basic science journal.

"The vascular endothelial cells have always been regarded as a bystander, but we've discovered that lung disease in response to low oxygen originates at this level, that the message is sent by these cells," said Dr. Kuebler. He said that if there were a way to block, or inhibit, this communication along the signalling pathway between the endothelial cells and the , we could potentially prevent right heart failure, a fairly common disease among patients with .

Related Stories

Potential new approach to treatment of chronic lung diseases

Mar 26, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists at UCD have identified a potential new treatment for life-threatening complications associated with chronic obstructive lung diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Chronic obstructive ...

A type of antioxidant may not be as safe as once thought

Sep 04, 2007

Certain preparations taken to enhance athletic performance or stave off disease contain an anti-oxidant that could cause harm. According to new research at the University of Virginia Health System, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), ...

Recommended for you

Cell death proteins key to fighting disease

2 hours ago

Melbourne researchers have uncovered key steps involved in programmed cell death, offering new targets for the treatment of diseases including lupus, cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.

Unlocking the secrets of pulmonary hypertension

19 hours ago

A UAlberta team has discovered that a protein that plays a critical role in metabolism, the process by which the cell generates energy from foods, is important for the development of pulmonary hypertension, a deadly disease.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.