Excessive iron build-up in the lungs could be a major cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Weill Cornell Medicine scientists find in a new study. The investigators also believe that they have identified the culprit for the excess: A gene they previously found to increase patients' susceptibility to the progressive lung disease.
For their study, published online on Jan. 11 in Nature Medicine, researchers examined a gene that is tasked with regulating iron uptake in cells, called iron-responsive element-binding protein 2 (IRP2). They discovered that mice that express IRP2 developed the hallmark symptoms of COPD — a condition defined by obstruction to expiratory airflows that makes breathing difficult — when exposed to cigarette smoke, while rodents that lacked the gene remained healthy. A drug given to the symptomatic mice prevented additional lung damage and even reversed COPD's effects.
The investigators say their discovery is significant because they validate the results of a 2009 study that implicated IRP2 in the disease's development and demonstrate how the gene supports COPD. The findings also illustrate that IRP2 may be a powerful therapeutic target.
"At the end of the day, we always like to have an impact on human disease, whether it's improving diagnostics, prevention or therapeutics, and this study actually gets to the therapeutic angle," said senior author Dr. Augustine Choi, the Weill Chairman of the Weill Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. "Not only does it validate our previous work, but it also provides us with a really good understanding of how IRP2 functions and facilitates the development of COPD."
COPD, which includes smoking-induced emphysema, chronic bronchitis and non-reversible asthma, is the third-leading cause of death in the United States, affecting more than 20 million people nationwide. It's commonly associated with smoking cigarettes and long-term exposure to air pollution, second-hand smoke, dust fumes and chemicals. But investigators have long wondered if there is a genetic predisposition to the disease.
In 2009, Dr. Choi and colleagues published a study in the American Journal of Human Genetics that analyzed the genes of patients with COPD and their family members to determine if there was a common genetic link. IRP2 was one of the top hits.
To validate that finding and determine the gene's functional role, the researchers exposed two sets of mice to cigarette smoke...Read more..
In analyzing 51 different flavored e-cigarettes, author of the study Joseph Allen and his team found at least one of three top toxins — diacetyl, acetoin and 2,3-pentanedione — in 47 of the e-cigs. Not only that, "the amount of diacetyl in 39 of the e-cigs exceeded the amount that was able to be detected by the laboratory."
"Diacetyl and other related flavoring chemicals are used in many other flavors beyond butter-flavored popcorn, including fruit flavors, alcohol flavors, and candy flavored e-cigarettes," said Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard.
He found this particularly disturbing because of the appeal fruity e-cigarettes such as "Cotton Candy, Fruit Squirts, and Cupcake" may have to young people.
Since e-cigarettes are a fairly new technology, the study's co-author David Christiani, Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics, warns that Popcorn Lung may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dangers e-cigs pose to their users:
“Since most of the health concerns about e-cigarettes have focused on nicotine, there is still much we do not know about e-cigarettes. In addition to containing varying levels of the addictive substance nicotine, they also contain other cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde, and as our study shows, flavoring chemicals that can cause lung damage.”
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Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are both health conditions involving the respiratory system and can lead to difficulty breathing. There is some overlap between the two conditions and it is estimated that approximately 40% of patients with COPD also suffer from asthma.
However, there are some distinct differences between the two conditions, in their pathophysiology, presentation of symptoms and the optimal management plans. The key differences to aid in diagnosis and treatment decisions are outlined below.
Characteristics of Asthma
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways that leads recurrent episodes of symptoms such as wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing, which commonly occur at night or in the early morning.
These flare up periods are associated with triggers that cause obstruction of the airways, which is usually reversible.
Diagnosis of asthma most commonly occurs during childhood, in individuals that have a history of dry cough in the night, although it can present at any age.
View asthma animated:
Characteristics of COPD
COPD is a disease characterized by the progressive obstruction of the airways that leads to a reduction in airflow and respiratory function. These changes are not completely reversible and inhaled noxious particle or gases, such as cigarette smoke, are associated as risk factors for the condition.
Diagnosis of COPD usually occurs in older adults with a history of smoking or chronic exposure to other inhaled irritants.
View how chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) develops:
Key Differential Factors
Both asthma and COPD are chronic inflammatory diseases of the small airways involving mucus and bronchoconstriction that limit the airflow. However, the differences between the two conditions are important and affect the way we manage them.
The reversibility of the damage to the airways is a major difference between asthma and COPD. The airways obstruction in asthma is largely reversible in patients with asthma, whereas the obstruction in COPD is considered to be irreversible or less reversible.
The difference in reversibility is highlighted in the results from lung function tests, such as spirometry. Both show a reduction in airflow, but assessing the effect of bronchodilator administration can help to differentiate between the conditions. Asthma exhibits greater...Read more..
The debate about e-cigarettes and the relationship to tobacco products has moved up a notch following a new study about teen vapers in the U.S. The study shows a link to tobacco products.
Vaping (the use of electronic cigarettes) is seen by many, including those who market the products, as a safer alternative to smoking tobacco products (e-cigarettes contain the addictive chemical nicotine but no known carcinogens.) However, the arguments used by the main manufactures (many of them tobacco companies that have diversified) relates to how the product is used to wean people away from traditional tobacco product, as a step to giving up smoking anything at all. For this reason, in parts of the U.K., electronic cigarettes have medicinal status and can be prescribed by a medical doctor to a patient in a quest to give up smoking.
There is other evidence, such as from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that suggests the marketing of e-cigarettes, especially the types infused with flavors like bubblegum, are designed to appeal to young people who have never smoked before.
This tendency has been picked up in a new study that suggests that vaping may encourage tobacco smoking by teens (traditional cigarettes or the use of a hookah) who would have seemed the least likely to take up the habit.
The concern here is that the e-cigarettes are a stepping stone to tobacco products. There are also concerns that the chemicals in e-cigarettes and the long-term effects on the human body is unknown (this is an issue raised by the World Health Organization.)
The new study comes from Dr. Thomas Wills, of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center in Honolulu. Wills told Science News: " All the information that’s come out in the past few months suggests that there is a risk associated with e-cigarette use."
The study was based on a review of 2,200 children (in the 9th and 10th grades.) Information was gathered about e-cigarette and traditional cigarette use. Those who vaped were three times more likely that those who had never vaped to take up the smoking of tobacco products.
The study also included a personality assessment. Those teens who considered themselves to be, or who displayed characteristics of, rebelliousness, were most likely to make the transition over from e-cigarettes to tobacco products.
The research is published in the journal Tobacco Control. The paper is headed "Longitudinal study of e-cigarette use and onset of...Read more..
Pre-existing asthma may be a strong predictor of future chronic migraine attacks in individuals experiencing occasional migraine headaches, according to researchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC), Montefiore Headache Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Vedanta Research. The findings were published online in November in the journal Headache, a publication of the American Headache Society.
"If you have asthma along with episodic or occasional migraine, then your headaches are more likely to evolve into a more disabling form known as chronic migraine," said Vincent Martin, M.D., professor of medicine in UC's division of general internal medicine, co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Program at the UC Neuroscience Institute, and lead author of the study.
Dr. Martin teamed with Richard Lipton, M.D., and Dawn Buse, Ph.D., both of Montefiore Headache Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and Kristina Fanning, Ph.D.; Daniel Serrano, Ph.D.; and Michael Reed, Ph.D., all from Vedanta Research, to study about 4,500 individuals who experienced episodic migraine or fewer than 15 headaches per month in 2008.
"Migraine and asthma are disorders that involve inflammation and activation of smooth muscle either in blood vessels of in the airways," said Richard Lipton, M.D., director of Montefiore Headache Center and vice chair of neurology, and the Edwin S. Lowe Chair in Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and founder of the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study. "Therefore, asthma-related inflammation may lead to migraine progression."
About 12 percent of the U.S. population experiences migraine, according to the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study. This condition is three times more common in women than men, including 18 percent of American women and 6 percent of American men. Individuals with chronic migraine have headaches occurring 15 or more days per month; this condition affects one percent of the U.S. population and takes a severe toll on sufferers who often miss work and social events. The World Health Organization (WHO) rates migraine as the world's seventh most disabling medical condition.
The researchers analyzed data from the AMPP Study. Study participants completed written questionnaires both in 2008 and 2009. Based on responses to the 2008 questionnaire, they were divided into two groups—one with episodic migraine and coexisting asthma and another with...Read more..
In a recent study published in Respiratory Magazine, patients with COPD and other chronic respiratory disorders who received music therapy in conjunction with standard rehabilitation saw an improvement in symptoms, quality of life, and psychological well-being when compared to patients who received only rehabilitation. The results of the study, conducted by researchers at The Louis Armstrong Center of Music and Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, suggest that music therapy may be an effective addition to traditional treatment. A total of 68 participants diagnosed with chronic respiratory diseases were included in the study.
A randomized group of the patients attended weekly music therapy sessions over the course of 6 weeks that included live music, visualizations, singing that incorporated breath control techniques, and wind instrument playing. Certified music therapists provided active music-psychotherapy. The music therapy sessions integrated the preferred music of patients, which encouraged self-expression, increased engagement in therapeutic activities, and provided an opportunity to cope with the challenges of a chronic disease, according to a Mount Sinai School of Medicine news release.
“The care of chronic illness is purposefully shifting away from strict traditional assessments that once focused primarily on diagnosis, morbidity, and mortality rates,” says Joanne Loewy, DA, director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at MSBI, where the study was conducted. “Instead, the care of the chronically ill is moving toward methods that aim to preserve and enhance quality of life of our patients and activities of daily living through identification of their culture, motivation, caregiver/home trends and perceptions of daily wellness routines.”
Jonathan Raskin, MD, co-author of the study and director of the Alice Lawrence Center for Health and Rehabilitation at MSBI, states, “Music therapy has emerged as an essential component to an integrated approach in the management of chronic respiratory disease. The results of this study provide a comprehensive foundation for the establishment of music therapy intervention as part of pulmonary rehabilitation care.”
The researchers found that the patients who received music therapy in conjunction with standard rehabilitation saw an improvement in symptoms, as well as their psychological well-being and quality of life, according to the study which appears in Respiratory...Read more..
Study suggests willpower isn't the only player
In this New Year, it is time to get smoking stopped! And perhaps our genes can help us understand how. In a recent study, it has been found that some smokers have much more difficulty kicking the habit than others. Now, a new review of prior research identifies a potential culprit: genes.
Researchers analyzed genetic differences cited in 22 studies involving nearly 9,500 white smokers. Of particular interest were variations in genes involved in processing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate the brain's reward and pleasure centers.
Experts believe that the nicotine found in tobacco boosts dopamine in the brain, leading to addiction.
The researchers wondered if variants in genes that regulate dopamine might be associated with the ability to put out the butts for good.
In the end, the scientists focused on a DNA sequence called Taq1A. They found that smokers who carried a variation of that sequence -- called A2/A2 -- appeared to have an easier time quitting smoking than those who carried other variations of the Taq1A sequence.
"This variant has been studied for years, but this study provided more convincing evidence on the role of this genetic variant in smoking cessation by analyzing a significant large number of smoke samples," said study co-author Ming Li, a professor in the department of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia.
The findings were published Dec. 1 online in Translational Psychiatry.
Li, working with researchers from Zhejiang University School of Medicine in Hangzhou, China, noted that roughly 6 million people die worldwide every year because of smoking.
The studies included in the current analysis were conducted between 1994 and 2014, and numbered from fewer than 100 participants to more than 2,000.
Quitting success varied widely, ranging from less than 10 percent to nearly 67 percent, the researchers reported.
Ultimately, the team found there was a "significant association" -- but no definitive proof -- between having the A2/A2 DNA variant and an increased ability to successfully quit.
The authors said the finding should encourage more research into the genetics behind efforts to quit smoking. Such research could eventually lead to the development of personalized treatments that target each smoker's inherited predispositions, they suggested.
However, Li's team cautioned that "research on this problem remains...Read more..
Children who are raised in households with dogs or farm animals during their first year of life may have a lower risk of asthma a few years later, a new study suggests.
In the study, the researchers looked at early exposure to dogs and farm animals and the rate of asthma among about 377,000 preschool-age and 276,000 school-age children in Sweden.
Among the school-age kids in the study, those who had been exposed to dogs during their first year of life were 13 percent less likely to have asthma at age 6, compared with the school-age kids who had not been exposed to dogs in their first year of life, the researchers found.
Based on the new findings, researchers can confidently "say that Swedish children with dogs in their homes are at lower risk of asthma at age 6, and that this risk reduction is seen also in children to parents with asthma," said study author Tove Fall, an associate professor of Uppsala University in Sweden.
The researchers also found that, the school-age kids who were exposed to farm animals during their first year of life were 52 percent less likely to have asthma at age 6 than those who had not been exposed to farm animals during their first year of life.
Among the preschool-age children, those who were exposed to farm animals during their first year were 31 percent less likely to have asthma when they were between 1 and 5 years old, compared with the kids who were not exposed to farm animals during their first year of life, according to the study, published on November 2, 2015 in the Journal JAMA Pediatrics.
In the study, the researchers looked at diagnoses of asthma obtained from the National Patient Register in Sweden. They also examined data on prescribed asthma drugs dispensed at pharmacies in Sweden. The researchers also looked at whether the kids' parents were registered as dog owners during the child's entire first year of life, and whether the parents reported that they worked with farm animals. The data in the study were analyzed from January 2007, through September 2012.
The researchers said they don't know for sure what exactly may explain the link between early exposure to animals and a reduced risk of asthma.
"It might be due to a single factor, or more likely, a combination of several factors related to a dog ownership lifestyle or dog-owners' attitudes, such as kids' exposure to household dirt and pet dust, time spent outdoors or being physically active," Fall told Live Science. "As a parent in...Read more..