But researchers at the University of Michigan have discovered that targeting of a novel gene utilizing genetic and pharmacologic strategies was successful in treating pulmonary fibrosis in mice and will be developed for future testing in humans.
The treatments attack an oxidant-generating enzyme, NOX4, that researchers discovered is involved in the fibrotic process — which involves scar-like tissue formation in an organ such as the lung. The researchers’ findings will be published in the September issue of the journal Nature Medicine.
“We’ve identified the target. We know the enemy now,” said Subramaniam Pennathur, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine/nephrology. “This is the first study that shows pulmonary fibrosis is driven by this NOX4 enzyme.
“But what’s really significant is this discovery may have relevance to fibrosis in other organ systems, not just the lung.”
So those suffering from common cardiac or kidney diseases, which often involve fibrosis, also may benefit from treatments stemming from this research, Pennathur said.
Pennathur said continued support from the National Institutes of Health will eventually allow researchers to take the treatment to human studies. The University of Michigan also has filed for patent protection and is currently looking for a licensing partner to help bring the technology to market.
The discovery was made in the University of Michigan lab of Victor J. Thannickal, M.D. He was assisted by Louise Hecker, Ph.D., a post-doctoral research fellow.
Thannickal said the study points to a very viable treatment strategy for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and researchers saw success both in mouse models of lung fibrosis and in fibrogenic cells isolated from lungs of patients with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.
“It remains to be seen if fibrosis is reversible,” he said. “But therapeutic targeting of this pathway this may allow us to halt the progression of fibrosis and preserve lung function.”
The lung disease often affects older people, Thannickal said, and its cause is generally unknown. It is possible that cumulative injuries like exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants in genetically susceptible individuals could contribute to causing fibrosis.
There is a gradual scarring of the lung, thickening and contracting the organ until it loses its ability to exchange oxygen with blood, Hecker said. Patients experience extreme fatigue, rapid weight loss, chronic cough and shortness of breath.
There are five million people worldwide that are affected by this disease, according to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. In the United States there are over 100,000 patients with Pulmonary Fibrosis.
When U-M researchers induced the fibrotic process in the mice, they discovered that the NOX4 enzyme was elevated. By knocking down that enzyme at the genetic level or inhibiting its activity, the fibrosis was stopped, Hecker said.
“So we may be able to halt lung scarring even after the injury has occurred and fibrosis is set in motion,” she said. “This research provides proof of concept that we can target this pathway for therapeutic benefit, which could potentially be used in humans.”
Both Hecker and Thannickal left U-M this summer for the University of Alabama at Birmingham, but they plan to continue to work with Pennathur and other U-M researchers on anti-fibrotic therapies based on these studies. The patent will stay with U-M.
Mary F. Masson | Newswise Science News
Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences