Antibody treatment may reverse fatal lung disease

Updated: Oct 15, 2012, 14:40 PM IST

London: Researchers have found an antibody treatment that may not only stop pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a fatal lung disease that often gets worse, but also reverses the condition in mice and rats.

PAH (high pressure in the blood vessels supplying the lungs) is a devastating condition that affects adults. It is caused by changes in the cells lining the arteries that take blood from the heart to the lungs (a process called vascular remodelling).

Vascular remodelling causes the walls of the vessels to become stiff and thickened making it harder for blood to flow through them, which in turn worsens blood pressure, the Journal of Experimental Medicine reports.

This increased pressure places significant strain on the right side of the heart, which can lead to fatal heart failure if left untreated. PAH often affects young people, and more commonly women.

Current treatments for PAH target the constriction of the arteries, but fail to fully reverse the underlying vascular remodelling.

The researchers demonstrated that a protein called TRAIL worsened the progression of PAH in animal models, but blocking TRAIL with an antibody improved the disease.

"This research opens up a new insight into the mechanisms of PAH and suggests that TRAIL is critical to this process," said Allan Lawrie from the University of Sheffield`s Department of Cardiovascular Science, who led the study.

"If we can interrupt this process by blocking the TRAIL pathway, we have the potential to stop the disease in its tracks and even reverse the damage already done.

"These data, from animal models, provide validation and we are now actively pursuing a route to develop human antibodies as a potential new treatment for PAH, though this is likely to be several years from the clinic," said Lawrie, according to a Sheffield statement.