In a breakthrough study, Irish researchers have discovered that women with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) suffer more than men because oestrogen promotes the presence of bacteria which results in more severe symptoms.
Meanwhile scientists in Newcastle report on a pioneering technique which breathes life into previously unusable donor lungs which could be used to benefit those with the disease.
Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) discovered that oestrogen stimulated the presence of a mucoid form of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the lungs of women with CF. The bacterium is coated in a slimy layer which makes it more difficult to treat with antibiotics and more difficult to clear by the body’s own natural defence.
“This study opens the way to new understanding and potentially new therapies in the treatment of cystic fibrosis,” said Professor Gerry McElvaney, director of the Respiratory Research Laboratory RCSI/Beaumont Hospital.
The study – published in the New England Journal of Medicine – found women taking the oral contraceptive pill, which decreases the amount of naturally occurring oestrogen in the bodies, had lower levels of the problematic bacteria.
“This research study is among the first examples which shows the effects of gender hormones on infections and therefore has major implications for conditions beyond cystic fibrosis including other respiratory diseases such as asthma,”McElvaney said.
The DEVELOP-UK study, taking place in Newcastle, is pioneering a technique called ex vivo lung perfusion or EVLP. Donor lungs are removed, cleaned and aerated by a modified heart-lung bypass machine which pumps a specialised nutrient liquid through, while at the same time providing the lungs with oxygen via a breathing machine.
“Lungs are an incredibly delicate organ and they are easily damaged by events that happen before their removal from the donor,” said Professor Andrew Fisher, who is leading the research team. “If we can make more of the donor lungs currently turned down available for transplant that will be a great benefit to many patients whose lives are severely limited by their severe breathing problems.
The technique has shown to work in eight patients, with the study now being extended to other lung transplant centres in the UK.
“The EVLP research is revolutionary for people with CF as it makes more lungs available and therefore offers real hope and life for many patients,” said Ed Owen, chief executive of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, who partially funded the research.