Touching Lives - March 2004
New treatments for emphysema
Unfortunately, as many as one in 2,000 northern Europeans inherit a variant of Alpha-1 antitrypsin with an abnormal structure. The abnormal protein accumulates in the liver causing childhood cirrhosis (degeneration of the liver), and in the lungs causing emphysema from the age of thirty.
There is no known cure for emphysema. Affected individuals suffer terribly with chronic breathlessness as the lungs are progressively destroyed. Patients eventually die from respiratory failure.
Dr Mahadeva and his team aim to study lung tissue from individuals who have the abnormal protein to find out exactly how it causes emphysema. In so doing they hope to design new treatments for this distressing and fatal disease.