Glutathione depletion in chronic alcohol abuse makes lungs vulnerable to life-threatening diseases

Chronic alcohol abuse causes a profound deficiency of the antioxidant glutathione in the lungs, generating a marked susceptibility to serious lung diseases, according to research at Emory University School of Medicine and the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Lowered glutathione levels can be as deadly to the lungs of alcohol abusers as alcohol itself can be to their livers and other organs, says David Guidot, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Guidot will explain how glutathione depletion affects the lungs at a symposium on the cellular effects of chronic alcohol abuse at the Experimental Biology 02 meeting in New Orleans on April 24.

Until six years ago, when Emory scientist Marc Moss, M.D., first identified the connection between alcohol abuse and lung damage, scientists had not associated the two, even though alcohols ill effects on the liver, brain and other organs was well recognized, according to Dr. Guidot, "We now know that as many deaths occur every year from alcohol abuse related to lung injury as occur from alcohol abuse and liver disease or alcohol abuse and traffic accidents," he notes. Scientists previously had not focused on the connection between alcohol and lung disease because the cause-and-effect relationship is indirect, unlike the direct effect of alcohol on the liver, explains Dr. Guidot. Dr. Guidot began studying the effects of glutathione depletion on the lungs while reviewing the mechanisms of alcohol toxicity in other organs. The body manufactures glutathione a strong anti-oxidant molecule from amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Individuals with reasonably good diets maintain an adequate supply of glutathione, which is constantly being used up and replenished.

Although glutathione is manufactured in a variety of organs and tissues, including the liver, the lungs are particularly dependent on glutathione for protection from oxidati

Contact: Holly Korschun
Emory University Health Sciences Center

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