Immune Cell Activity Linked to Worsening COPD

Author: University of Michigan Health System
Published: 2009/12/15 - Updated: 2023/10/09
Publication Type: Research Study Analysis - Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Study links chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with increased activity of cells to activate body's immune system. Nearly all people diagnosed with COPD have emphysema or chronic bronchitis or most commonly, both conditions. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Most people with COPD are smokers or former smokers. Lung damage occurs well before people with COPD are aware of symptoms. By the time they seek medical help, the destructive forces of chronic lung inflammation often have taken a heavy toll.

Main Digest

The University of Michigan and Veterans Affairs research adds to growing awareness of the immune system's role in COPD, a serious, progressive lung disease that affects more than 12 million Americans with wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightening and other symptoms. Understanding immune factors is key if doctors are to find better ways to detect and treat the disease early when patients might benefit most, believe some COPD researchers.

Nearly all people diagnosed with COPD have emphysema or chronic bronchitis or most commonly, both conditions. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Most people with COPD are smokers or former smokers.

"We found that dendritic cells, a type of immune cell that initiates immune responses, are in the lung interacting with lymphocytes, and that these dendritic cells seem to get more active as the disease goes on. If we could alter or stop their action, perhaps we could stop the disease from progressing," says the study's senior author Jeffrey L. Curtis, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and chief of the pulmonary and critical care medicine section at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

The study appears in the December 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Lung damage occurs well before people with COPD are aware of symptoms. By the time they seek medical help, the destructive forces of chronic lung inflammation often have taken a heavy toll. Immune cells in repetitive overdrive play a key role in that inflammation response, COPD researchers increasingly believe.

Research Details

Curtis and his research team analyzed the activity of dendritic cells and other immune cells in lung tissue from patients at early and more severe stages of COPD. They found that as the disease progresses, multiple types of dendritic cells located in different parts the lung produce more of a stimulatory molecule associated with increased immune system activity. They also found two significant signs of increased activity in CD4+ T cells, important immune cells that, when activated, communicate with and direct other immune cells.

"Our data suggest that CD4+ T cells are more activated in later stages of COPD," says Christine M. Freeman, the study's first author and a research investigator in internal medicine at U-M. "This is not necessarily a good thing, because increased activation suggests that there is an inappropriate and excessive immune response taking place in the lungs of patients with severe COPD."

One strategy to help prevent COPD from worsening could be to make dendritic cells less inflammatory, says Curtis, adding that it is a significant challenge to intervene in the immune system without undermining its ability to fight infection.

Key Facts About COPD

Additional Authors:

Fernando Martinez, M.D., M.S.; MeiLan K. Han, Theresa M. Ames, Stephen W. Chensue, Jill C. Todt, Douglas A. Arenberg, Catherine A. Meldrum, Christi Getty, Lisa McCloskey

Funding:

U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center

Patents andConflict Disclosures:

M.K.H. received up to $1,000 from Novartis in consultancy fees, $1,001-$5,000 for serving on an advisory board for CSL Behring, $5,001-$10,000 in lecture fees from GlaxoSmithKline, and up to $1,000 in royalties from UpToDate. J.L.C. received $10,001-$50,001 in capitation for a clinical trial from Boehringer Ingelheim.

Citation:

American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine, December 15, 2009, volume 180, issue 12, page 1179

Attribution/Source(s):

This peer reviewed publication titled "Immune Cell Activity Linked to Worsening COPD" was chosen for publishing by Disabled World's editors due to its relevance to our readers in the disability community. While the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or brevity, it was originally authored by University of Michigan Health System and published 2009/12/15 (Edit Update: 2023/10/09). For further details or clarifications, you can contact University of Michigan Health System directly at uofmhealth.org. Please note that Disabled World does not provide any warranties or endorsements related to this article.

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