Up to now, early detection of COPD and associated lung damage, such as air trapping, air that cannot be exhaled due to overinflation of the alveoli, or pulmonary emphysema, holes in the lung filled with air that reduce the lung surface area, was not possible.
Hendrik Jan Ankersmit and his team have now been able to show that protein HSP27 is a suitable marker in the blood for detecting existing lung damage — even in people who feel healthy and whose pulmonary function test results give no cause for concern.
Ninety-four apparently healthy male and female smokers (average age of 43) were studied by the University Department of Surgery, Radiology and Pulmonology at MedUni Vienna. The results of the study have been, the international journal of thoracic medicine. The test subjects voluntarily underwent a high-resolution CT scan. The results showed that 57.45 per cent of test subjects exhibited signs of air trapping or air trapping and emphysema, even though their pulmonary function test results were within the normal ranges.
Moreover, the HSP27 value showed a significant correlation with the lung pathologies detected by radiologists during the CT scan.
Says Ankersmit: “If there is increased prevalence of the marker HSP27 and risk behaviour, such as smoking, is evident, then this may signify lung damage and, potentially, the early onset of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease." Normally, COPD is only diagnosed when a patient can only take limited steps to interrupt the course of the disease by altering his or her lifestyle.
According to Ankersmit, specific job groups are also at risk besides smokers. These include welders or furnace stokers and other people who regularly inhale smoke and chemical vapours in the course of their work. It is Ankersmit’s vision that GPs or pulmonologists will use the HSP27 value as a screening marker for lung disease in the future.
MEDICA.de; Source: Medical University of Vienna