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Simple Blood Test Detects Emphysema

March 21, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire) ““ Emphysema, an untreatable lung disease, and a significant cause of disability and death in the United States, will soon be detected early among smokers before symptoms appear. According to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Researchers at New York ““ Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center say an early-detection simple blood test for emphysema may be offered in the future.

Most cases of emphysema are caused by smoking; however, not all smokers develop the disease. Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, lead investigator of the study, chairman and professor of genetic medicine and the Bruce Webster Professor of Internal Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, was quoted as saying:

“We know, from other studies, that smokers who learn from objective evidence that their health is in danger are much more likely to quit. That is the only thing that will help them avoid this deadly disorder”. Smokers who find out they are at risk for emphysema, and are aware of their potentially life threatening outcome, will be motivated to quit, halting the progression emphysema.

The simple test measures particles in the blood called endothelial micro particles (EMP). EMPs are shed by blood vessels in the lungs called capillaries, as the surrounding air sacs become injured. If elevated levels of EMPs suggest that air sacs are damaged, then testing the levels of EMPs in the blood would be a good biomarker in detecting emphysema.

Dr. Crystal and his team of researchers brought in 92 smokers and non smokers to gauge their lung function by undergoing two pulmonary exams. The first exam, spirometry, measured how much air participants could inhale, and expel in a single breath. The next exam, DCLO, is a sophisticated exam used to detect early signs of emphysema. This exam provided a more detailed description of the lungs, and the air sacs that were damaged.

The researchers found a 95 percent positive correlation between an abnormal DCLO test result, and elevated levels of EMPs in participants. Dr. Crystal is quoted as saying elevated levels of EMPs in smokers are “the equivalent of a smoke detector sounding its alarm”¦ and it’s time to act”.

The EMP blood test would be beneficial for the 20 percent of Americans who smoke and second-hand smoke because the test is designed to be affordable, simple, and detects symptoms of emphysema before the disease surfaces. Researchers are conducting further studies to validate their discovery.

SOURCE: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published online 3/11/2011