Pulmonary Fibrosis: A New Treatment Option
(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Pulmonary fibrosis is the thickening of the lungs that can cause shortness of breath, chest discomfort, weight loss, a dry cough, fatigue, a decrease in the ability of the lungs to transmit oxygen to the blood stream, and can eventually lead to heart failure. Now, new research suggests a drug that inhibits a protein that is involved in pulmonary fibrosis, known as ROCK, could be used to treat the condition.
Cells called myofibroblasts usually leak out materials that are required for wound healing; when the wound has closed, the cells will disappear. Whenever someone has pulmonary fibrosis, the myofibroblasts stick around. They continue to secrete wound healing factors that cause fibrosis in the lungs.
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham discovered a mechanosensitive cellular signaling pathway in myofibroblasts that is activated by the hardening of the tissue that has become fibrotic. Activation of this pathway promotes myofibroblast survival and prevents the normal disappearance of these cells after wound healing is complete.
The pathway is dependent on a protein known as ROCK. Yong Zhou and colleagues discovered that a drug that inhibits ROCK, called fasudil, weakens the pro-survival pathway and can cause myofibroblasts to die.
In the study, fasudil treatment protected mice from injury-induced lung fibrosis. Researchers believe this study suggests that ROCK inhibitors could be used to treat pulmonary fibrosis.
SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Investigation, February 2013
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