Chronic inflammatory lung diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema are a major global health problem, and the fourth leading cause of death and disability in developed countries, with smoking accounting for 90% of the risk for developing them.
Work by scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and its Molecular Medicine Partnership Unit (MMPU) with the University of Heidelberg, Germany, has shed new light on the underlying disease process of emphysema using a technique which could in future be adapted for use in diagnosis. The study is published today in Nature Chemical Biology.
The researchers present a new strategy for testing the activity of MMP12, an enzyme known to be involved in the development of emphysema. Emphysema is characterised by the damage and destruction of the alveoli, the tiny air-sacs of the lungs that are crucial for respiration and uptake of oxygen from the air.
Cigarette smoke and other irritants activate immune cells, like macrophages, in the lungs to destroy the foreign material, and chronic exposure causes inflammation. MMP12 is an enzyme secreted by macrophages which usually helps them to break down the extracellular matrix (the complex network of proteins and fibers that surround and support the cells of the body), a process important for normal wound healing. However, over-stimulation of macrophages by irritants leads to build up of excess MMP12, which starts to damage the delicate structure of the small airspaces of the lungs, eventually leading to emphysema.
“We developed a tool which, for the first time, allows us to study MMP12 activity in specific cells, as if we were actually looking inside the lungs,” says Carsten Schultz, whose group carried out the research at EMBL.
The researchers designed a special fluorescent probe that essentially allows MMP12 activity in macrophages to be quantified by the amount of fluorescence they take up. Applying this test to samples of lung cells from a mouse model of acute lung inflammation showed that MMP12 activity in macrophages was indeed increased.
Although the study was performed in mice, the researchers hope that in future it will be possible to adapt the test for use in patients. “It would allow us to use MMP12 as a biomarker to monitor disease evolution and the risk of emphysema formation. It could also serve to examine the response to therapeutic interventions in patients with inflammatory lung diseases,” says Marcus Mall, group leader at the Children's Hospital at the University of Heidelberg.
The EMBL and University researchers hope that the new testing strategy can be extended to other enzymes involved in lung inflammation and that, with a better picture of the processes underlying these diseases, future treatments could be more specific, reducing the side-effects often caused by broad spectrum treatments.Anna-Lynn Wegener
Anna-Lynn Wegener | EMBL
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences