Monday, April 07, 2008

Interesting news on Cystic Fibrosis

Genetic mutation is behind cystic fibrosis

* 06 April 2008
* news service

Coughing and spluttering is a familiar soundtrack to winter, but for people with cystic fibrosis, lung infections are a year-round hazard. Now researchers are closer to understanding why.

Cystic fibrosis is caused by a genetic mutation in an ion transporter in lung cells. The cells were thought to dehydrate because they didn't get enough chloride ions, allowing mucus to accumulate and bacteria to flourish. But Erich Gulbins, at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, and colleagues have found something different. In mice with the same mutation, faulty ion transportation raises the pH inside the cells. This disrupts the balance between an enzyme called ASM that produces ceramide, a fatty molecule, and another called acid ceramidase that breaks down ceramide.

The build-up of ceramide kills lung cells, resulting in mucus deposits and inflammation, which make lungs more susceptible to infection (Nature Medicine, DOI: 10.1038/nm1748).

People with cystic fibrosis also have high ceramide levels, so blocking ASM could be a new approach to treating the disease.

Genetics - Keep up with the pace in our continually updated special report.
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* Cystic Fibrosis Trust

From issue 2650 of New Scientist magazine, 06 April 2008, page 15


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