New Type Of Artificial Surfactant Shows Promise In Treating Lung Disease

Medical researchers have found that adding a simple molecular chain to a standard medication for lung disease creates a new therapy that shows promise for difficult-to-treat cases resulting from acute lung injury. Scientists from the University of California San Francisco led the team, which also included researchers from the University of Rochester and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

The standard medication is artificial surfactant, a detergent-like liquid that is administered directly into the lungs. Studies in animal models showed the extra molecular chain--made of a compound bio-compatible with mammalian tissue--appears to act as a protective barrier, allowing normal function of a key substance that lines the air spaces in the lungs. This substance is natural surfactant, a lung secretion that is vital to normal pulmonary function because it keeps the lungs from collapsing after each breath.

Reporting today (May 4) at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in San Francisco, principal investigator H. William Taeusch, MD, of UCSF, said rats with diseased lungs treated with the enhanced medication had improved oxygen levels in the blood, an indication that lung function is not compromised.

"The study findings are dramatic, and we are excited at the potential of someday successfully treating infants and adults who have lung problems that don't respond well to current treatment. We have been frustrated with the poor outcome in these groups, and our results suggest that we could be on the road to a much-improved therapy," said Taeusch, who is a UCSF professor of pediatrics and chief of the Department of Pediatrics at the UCSF-affiliated San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center.

Some 5,000-10,000 infants and 100,000 adults in the U.S. suffer from acute lung injury every year. Their disease differs from premature babies who at birth suffer from respiratory distress syndrome--also known as hyaline membrane disease-

Contact: Corinna Kaarlela
University of California - San Francisco

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