Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Breathing Deeper
28 March 2017

Breathing Deeper

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of diseases including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Patients with COPD are usually older smokers, who experience persistent coughing and breathlessness. It‘s thought that smoking contributes to COPD by obstructing the self-healing process that normally occurs in lung tissue by interrupting a protein called Frizzled 4 (which works to repair damaged lung cells). Researchers noticed that less Frizzled 4 is present in patients with COPD than healthy patients, and so they investigated further in the lab. They found that when lung cells are exposed to cigarette smoke, Frizzled 4 vanishes from the cell surface, halting cell growth and leading to deteriorated tissue (pictured on the right, with healthy lung tissue on the left). When levels of Frizzled 4 were increased, the cell repair process was restored and the cells were able to self-heal.

Written by Katie Panteli

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