Is High Lung Protein Level an Early Predictor of COPD?
Mehmet Kesimer’s UNC School of Medicine, PhD, has found that MUC5AC is more reliably associated with the manifestation of COPD than another well-known mucus protein, revealing a possible biomarker for initiation disease, prognosis and therapeutic efficacy.
CHAPEL HILL, NC – The mucus in the respiratory tract is made up of various proteins such as the long mucins MUC5AC and MUC5B, both of which contribute greatly to the gelatinous consistency of this most essential body fluid. Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine, led by mucin expert Mehmet Kesimer, PhD, had previously found that total concentrations of mucin in the lungs are associated with the progression of COPD and could be used as markers. diagnoses of chronic bronchitis, a condition characteristic of patients with COPD. Kesimer and colleagues now report that one of these mucins, MUC5AC, is associated more closely and more reliably with the development of COPD than its sibling, MUC5B.
The research, published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, shows that MUC5AC is found at elevated levels in smokers who had not yet developed COPD but whose lung function eventually declined during the three-year study. Former smokers at risk for COPD, on the other hand, had normal levels of MUC5AC at the start of the study and maintained adequate lung function for three years. According to the study, the hyperconcentration of MUC5AC in the lungs may be a key factor in predicting risks and rates of progression to more serious disease.
Recent nationwide efforts have focused on early or pre-COPD COPD to predict the risks of progression to COPD in smokers.
“Currently, we cannot predict which individuals in the at-risk smoker group will progress to COPD because we do not have an objective biomarker to underlie the disease-causing pathways. Our research shows that MUC5AC could be a predictor of who will develop COPD in the large group of aging ‘at risk’ smokers, ”said Kesimer, lead author of the study, professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. UNC, and member of the UNC Marsico Lung Institute. “We believe that MUC5AC could be a new biomarker for the prognosis of COPD and that it could be a biomarker to test the effectiveness of therapeutic strategies.”
MUC5AC could also become a target for pharmaceutical developers whose goal is to stop the progression of COPD disease and help patients live more normal and active lives.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an inflammatory lung disease that causes obstruction of air flow to the lungs and affects approximately 16 million people in the United States. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, coughing, mucus production, and wheezing. It is usually caused by long-term exposure to irritants, such as particles like cigarette smoke. The two main conditions that contribute to COPD are chronic bronchitis, an inflammation of the lining of the bronchi due to a chronic build-up of mucin / mucus; and emphysema, when the tiny air sacs at the end of the lungs’ smaller air passages are destroyed.
There are some treatment options for COPD to try to slow the progression of the disease and reduce the symptoms, but treatments often don’t work well, especially in the later stages of the disease, and there is no cure. remedy.
The Kesimer Lab at the UNC Marsico Lung Institute uses a variety of techniques, including mass spectrometry, to identify and measure the different biological mechanisms involved in lung disease. For this study, the UNC team of scientists were able to measure the concentrations of MUC5AC and MUC5B in different groups of people, including people who had never smoked cigarettes, who had quit smoking and who continue to smoke. smoke with or without COPD.
Smoking cigarettes has long been known to be a major risk factor for COPD, but Kesimer’s work suggests that quitting smoking decreases the chances of developing COPD as you age.
“Our data indicate that increased concentrations of MUC5AC in the respiratory tract may
contribute to the initiation of COPD, as well as the progression of the disease, the exacerbation of symptoms and the way the disease progresses over time, in general, ”said Kesimer. “We did not observe the same association with MUC5B.”
The best thing an aging person can do to avoid the inevitable decline associated with COPD is to quit smoking immediately before airway obstruction sets in due to mucin / mucus buildup. Thanks to Kesimer’s work, however, it might be possible to identify people who are at the greatest immediate risk of developing COPD soon.
Giorgio Radicioni, Agathe Ceppe, Amina A. Ford, Neil Alexis, Esin Ozkan, Wanda O’Neal, and Richard C. Boucher were other major contributors to this UNC Marsico Lung Institute study. A total of 20 authors from 14 different institutions contributed to the study as part of a national COPD study called SPIROMICS.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, funded this work.
Media contact: Mark Derewicz, UNC School of Medicine, 919-923-0959