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.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

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

Mystery of the reverse-wired eyeball solved

2 hours ago

From a practical standpoint, the wiring of the human eye - a product of our evolutionary baggage - doesn't make a lot of sense. In vertebrates, photoreceptors are located behind the neurons in the back of the eye - resulting ...

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

2 hours ago

Researchers have for the first time successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight ...

Quality control for adult stem cell treatment

5 hours ago

A team of European researchers has devised a strategy to ensure that adult epidermal stem cells are safe before they are used as treatments for patients. The approach involves a clonal strategy where stem cells are collected ...

A gene for brain size only found in humans

8 hours ago

About 99 percent of human genes are shared with chimpanzees. Only the small remainder sets us apart. However, we have one important difference: The brain of humans is three times as big as the chimpanzee ...

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.