Decline In Lung
Linked To Asthma Attacks
CLEVELAND, OH -- February 25, 2000 -- Scientists at the Cleveland Clinics Lerner Research Institute have found that levels of certain lung enzymes decrease during allergen-provoked asthma, creating the potential for development of novel drugs to fight the disease. The results of their work are published in the Feb. 19, 2000, issue of The Lancet medical journal.
Researchers Serpil Erzurum, M.D., and Suzy Comhair, Ph.D., documented declines in the concentrations of the antioxidants superoxide dismutase and reduced glutathione in lung fluids from asthmatics 10 minutes after exposure to grass or ragweed allergens.
Nonasthmatic control volunteers, on the other hand, did not experience declines in lung antioxidant levels. Moreover, superoxide dismutase levels remained well below preasthmatic induction levels 48 hours after initial exposure to the allergens.
"Antioxidants play a key role in preserving healthy lungs in humans," said Dr. Erzurum, a staff physician in the Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. "The lungs are frequently exposed to toxic oxidants from cigarette smoke, air pollutants, or from reactive oxidants released by inflammatory cells during inflammation. Fortunately, the lung is endowed with an integrated defense system that uses antioxidants such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase to protect lung cells and tissue from damaging oxidants."
However, Dr. Erzurum added, acute asthmatic attacks impair that antioxidant defense system. "When oxidants overwhelm antioxidants, tissue injury and disease results." she said. "Our studies show that chronic asthma features decreased levels of antioxidants in the lungs, and the decrease is markedly worse during acute asthmatic attacks. These results support the role of antioxidant/oxidant imbalance in the deterioration and injury of airway tissue in the lungs of asthmatics. The findings highlight the importance of testing new therapies for boosting antioxidant levels in the lungs of asthmatics," Dr. Erzurum said.
As many as 150 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, and the number is rising, according to the World Health Organization. In the U.S., the number of asthmatics has risen 60 percent since the early 1980s. There are approximately 5,000 asthma-related deaths each year in the U.S., and 180,000 per year worldwide.
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