Vancouver researchers have discovered the cellular pathway that causes lung-damaging inflammation in cystic fibrosis (CF), and determined that reducing the pathway’s activity also decreases inflammation. The finding offers a potential new drug target for treating CF lung disease, which is a major cause of illness and death for people with CF. “Developing new drugs that target lung inflammation would be a big step forward,” says Dr. Stuart Turvey, who led the research. Dr. Turvey is the director of clinical research and senior clinician scientist at the Child & Family Research Institute and a pediatric immunologist at BC Children’s Hospital. He is an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia. The research was published online on October 26, 2012 in the Journal of Immunology. For the study, researchers compared the immune response of normal lung cells with that of CF lung cells after exposing both types of cells to bacteria in the lab. In healthy cells, exposure to bacteria triggers the cell to secrete special molecules that attract immune cells to fight the infection. In CF lung cells, the researchers discovered that a series of molecular events called the unfolded protein response is more highly activated. It causes the CF lung cells to secrete more molecules that attract an excessive amount of immune cells, which leads to increased inflammation. They also found that treating the CF cells with a special chemical normalized the unfolded protein response and stabilized the cells’ immune response. CF is the most common genetic disease affecting young Canadians. One in every 3,600 children born in Canada has CF. There is no cure.
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