Researchers Find Pathway to Potential New COPD Treatment: Necroptosis

Researchers continue to work overtime to learn more about COPD. A recent study links COPD with a certain kind of cell death and researchers think this may lead to a new potential treatment for COPD. Needless to say, these study results have garnered lots of interest among COPD researchers.

Key terms to know

This new study linked COPD with necroptosis, a type of cell death. The thinking is that inhaled irritants (like cigarette smoke) may speed up this type of cell death inside your lungs. This may be one of the potential causes or consequences of COPD.1-2 Before we go any further, a couple of new terms to learn. We’ll begin with the three types of cell death.

Necrosis

Necrosis is the death of a cell due to a lack of oxygen in that tissue. Necrosis may be the cause or consequence of certain diseases. For instance, a severe COPD flare-up may cause low oxygen levels. If not treated, this may cause the death of certain cells. When this happens, the cell swells and explodes. Cell contents are distributed to nearby cells and this initiates an immune response that causes inflammation.3-5

Apoptosis

Apoptosis is the death of a cell due to the normal breakdown of that cell over time. It is the natural or programmed death of a cell. It is a natural way of getting rid of old or otherwise damaged cells. Since it is programmed, it does not cause inflammation.2-3,6

Necroptosis

Necroptosis is a type of necrosis that is dependent on receptor-interacting protein kinase-3 (RIPK3).2-3  Since it is a type of necrosis, it also causes inflammation which may contribute to COPD. Because necroptosis is linked to a certain protein, reseasrchers think a potential future medicine may prevent it from occurring. It is necroptosis that we will focus on for the duration of this post.2-3

A potential new treatment

A recent study of interest was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. It was done by Austrian and Belgian researchers and concluded that COPD patients had high levels of necroptosis.1-2

COPD is caused by long-term exposure to harmful inhaled substances, the most common of which is cigarette smoke. Researchers think that these substances may be responsible for necroptosis inside the lungs.2-3

So, inhaling cigarette smoke may cause necroptosis and the subsequent immune response and inflammation. This response in turn is what often leads to both chronic bronchitis and emphysema.2-3

On the contrary, inhibition of necroptosis may prevent inflammation. So, researchers think if they can inhibit necroptosis, this may prevent or treat COPD.2-3

Goals and hope

Of course, more studies on needed on this topic. If ongoing evidence supports this finding, it may lead to even further research. The goal is that this will result in a discovery of something to block necroptosis. The hope is that this potential new medicine may prevent and treat COPD.

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