Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a condition marked by a faulty protein that causes the cells and glands that make mucus and sweat to malfunction. A person affected with CF typically finds that thickened mucus builds up in particular organs.
This thickened mucus commonly causes infections, which can be severe, and even life-threatening. The damage also leads to inflammation, most commonly in the lungs. Inflammation and mucus in the lungs can make breathing difficult.
Most treatments for cystic fibrosis involve efforts to loosen the mucus that has built up in specific areas. People can be taught special ways to breathe or to cough, which can help to a certain extent, with their ability to breathe. However as the disease advances, these techniques tend to become less effective.
A variety of medicines, in particular bronchodilators, mucus thinners, and steroids can help ease the symptoms of cystic fibrosis. However, for a number of individuals with cystic fibrosis, no treatment currently available offers any help.
Recently a study led by Dr. Martin Burke, a professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois in Champaign, discovered that the antifungal medication amphotericin has the ability to fight the chronic lung infections that commonly occur with this disease. The results of their study were published in the prestigious journal Nature.
Using tissue from people with cystic fibrosis, along with animal models of CF, Dr. Burke and his colleagues analyzed the effects of amphotericin on the affected tissue samples. They discovered that this drug caused a number of positive changes to these tissue samples, including improved lung function, a normalization of pH levels, an increased ability to fight bacterial infections, and thinning of the mucus associated with this disease.
The researchers also noted that this medicine is already approved and available on the market, which simplifies the process of having it approved for cystic fibrosis. They also noted that they were able to administer amphotericin into the lungs directly, thereby minimizing any possible side effects.
Though a great deal of testing remains to be done in order to validate the effectiveness of this new approach, scientists are excited that a new method for treating the effects of cystic fibrosis may soon be available. Further, the implications of this discovery for other diseases that affect the lungs is expected to yield important insights into possible treatments for these diseases.
Laurel Bay Health and Rehabilitation Center, in the scenic beach town of Keansburg, NJ, specializes in pulmonary care. Headed by leading pulmonary specialist Dr. Avtar Parhar, our program is the most highly advanced pulmonary rehabilitation program in Monmouth County. At Laurel Bay, we focus on restorative and preventive care for those who suffer with chronic respiratory disease.
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