Study suggests new therapy for lung disease patients

February 7, 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.

It has been commonly believed that high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) or hypercapnia in the blood and lungs of patients with acute lung disease may be beneficial to them. Now, for the first time, scientists have shown how elevated levels of CO2 actually have the opposite effect.

The excessive CO2 impairs the functioning of the lungs. Jacob Sznajder, M.D., chief of pulmonary and critical care at the Feinberg School, and his research team found that high levels of CO2 make it harder for the lungs to clear fluid.

The excess CO2 initiates a signaling cascade leading to the inhibition of the action of sodium “pumps” that help move water out of the air spaces. This creates a greater risk of edema in which the lungs flood with fluid.

The investigators worked with rats and human cells for the study, which was published in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"Allowing high levels of CO2 may contribute to the high mortality of patients with diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)," said Sznajder, a professor of medicine and of cell and molecular biology at the Feinberg School and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "This study argues toward therapies to reduce the high CO2 levels of patients toward normal levels, which is not the current practice in the intensive care unit."

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 120,000 people, according to the National Institutes of Health. When people have COPD, their lungs lose elasticity and have trouble exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen. COPD used to be strictly a disease of smokers, but now it's also crippling the lungs of non-smokers.

Source: Northwestern University

Explore further: Asthma patients reduce symptoms, improve lung function with shallow breaths, more CO2

Related Stories

CO2 emissions in US drop to 20-year low

August 16, 2012

(AP) — The amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful ...

Breaking down how we breathe

May 16, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- If you’re an average person (not from Lake Wobegon) you breathe in about 900 times an hour.  You probably don’t think about it much, but Daniel Mulkey does. He studies what happens at the ...

When you lose weight, where does the fat actually go?

March 1, 2016

The answer to this question may surprise you. In fact, according to a recent British Medical Journal article discussing this issue, few health professionals, including doctors, dieticians, and personal trainers know the correct ...

Recommended for you

Discovery offers new hope to repair spinal cord injuries

April 24, 2017

Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes created a special type of neuron from human stem cells that could potentially repair spinal cord injuries. These cells, called V2a interneurons, transmit signals in the spinal cord to ...

Motion sickness drug worsens motion perception

April 24, 2017

A new study led by Massachusetts Eye and Ear researchers found that oral promethazine, a drug commonly taken to alleviate motion sickness, temporarily worsened vestibular perception thresholds by 31 percent, lowering one's ...

Macrophages shown to be essential to a healthy heart rhythm

April 20, 2017

A Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)-led research team has identified a surprising new role for macrophages, the white blood cells primarily known for removing pathogens, cellular debris and other unwanted materials. In ...

0 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.