Research finds new cause for common lung problem

New research has found that in cases of lung edema, or fluid in the lungs, not only do the lungs fail to keep water out as previously believed, but they are also allowing water to pump in.

"Usually, our lungs pump fluid out of the air space, and it was previously believed that this pump mechanism just stopped when people had lung edema," said Dr. Wolfgang Kuebler, a scientist at St. Michael's Hospital. "But we've found not only do they stop pumping fluid out as they're supposed to do, they've gotten confused and are actually pumping in the reverse direction, bringing fluid into the lungs."

The research was published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Kuebler said this finding has important implications for the treatment of lung edema, a common symptom of . Stopping the pumping mechanism, although seemingly counterintuitive, is protective for the lung and important for effective treatment.

For the first time, this explains why Lasix, a commonly prescribed drug, works in treating lung edema – it simply prevents the pumps from allowing fluid into the air spaces. Lasix was previously believed to work exclusively by targeting the kidneys.

"With this information, more effective drugs that target just the lungs, and not the kidneys, can now be developed," said Dr. Kuebler, also a scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute.

Dr. Kuebler points out that this mechanism of pumping fluid into the air spaces is similar to what happens in the fetal lung. In the , the lung works to pump fluids in and only after the baby is born, does that pumping mechanism reverse itself to pump fluid out. "You can actually now interpret lung edema as a regression of the adult lung to a ," he said.

Related Stories

Research findings breathe new life into lung disease

Oct 24, 2012

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 ...

Study suggests new therapy for lung disease patients

Feb 07, 2008

A new study by researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine may change current thinking about how best to treat patients in respiratory distress in hospital intensive care units.

Many more lungs suitable for transplantation

Jun 30, 2011

Four patients now have new lungs thanks to a purpose-built machine used for the first time worldwide by Sahlgrenska University Hospital. Acquired for research at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, ...

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

22 hours ago

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments