Washington: Based on more than 50 experiments with mice, scientists have mapped out the basic steps taken by a particular set of white blood cells in setting the pace for recovery after serious lung injury.
The white blood cells are called regulatory T-cells, or Tregs for short, and their best known function is to keep the body`s immune system from attacking its own healthy tissues.
"Our study results are the critical first leads in finding treatments for a clinical condition that until now has had none, despite its high mortality," says study senior investigator Landon King, Johns Hopkins University.
"When a patient develops acute lung injury, we want the critical care medicine team to be able to do more than just stabilise the patient on a ventilator," said King.
King says the study opens the door to a new field in research and development of drugs that either speeds up the post-injury activation of Tregs, or supplements levels of Tregs in people who may be relatively lymphocyte deficient from either lung disease or chemotherapy. Lymphocyte is the technical term for a type of white blood cell.
Some 200,000 Americans suffer some form of sudden, acute lung injury (ALI) each year, in which inflammation spreads across both lungs, making breathing difficult and starving the body of much-needed oxygen.
Among them are people with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome caused by infection, the most severe form of ALI. Also included are burn victims, people with chest injuries from car accidents, and cancer patients who have had adverse reactions to donated platelets from blood transfusion.
Almost all people with ALI require breathing assistance from mechanical ventilators, and nearly 75,000 die each year.
The study was published online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.