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Recent Study Uncovers Protein That May Help Early COPD Detection

Posted on May 18, 2012

Researchers from the Department of Thoracic Surgery at the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Cardiac and Thoracic Diagnosis and Regeneration have found a protein that could lead to a much earlier diagnosis of COPD, allowing patients to begin treatment sooner.

An April 2012 online Daily Rx report outlines the research study, led by Hendrik Jan Ankersmit, M.D. The study looked at 120 smokers who were apparently healthy. The researchers looked for elevated levels of the heat shock protein 27 (HSP27) in these test subjects.

What they were looking for was a correlation between this protein and early warning signs of COPD. The researchers used lung function tests and collected blood samples to see if HSP27 was a biomarker. In addition, 94 of the test subjects were given CT scans. 

What they found was:

  • 57% of the subjects suffered from air trapping, which happens when air gets stuck in the lungs and it becomes difficult to exhale. 
  • These same subjects had higher levels of the protein HSP27 in their blood than the ones who did not experience air trapping. 
  • Researchers are wondering if higher levels of HSP27 might be a way of diagnosing COPD earlier.
  • Additionally, they found that a CT scan could help find early signs of the disease.

These findings are important, because the sooner COPD is diagnosed, the better the ability to slow its progress. 

In the future, studies may be planned for larger numbers of test subjects, and researchers will likely look into the levels of HSP27 in established COPD patients to see if the levels correspond with the progression of the disease.

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John L. Keefe
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