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Why Is There No Cure For COPD?

Why is there no cure for COPD? Why is so much known about other diseases, yet so little known about ours? These are viable questions I hear often. Trust me when I say there are good answers to these questions. Here’s what I think.

Why is so little known about COPD?

I would like to answer this question first. So little is known because COPD is a relatively new disease. It was not defined for the medical community until the 1940s. By new, I don’t mean that it is a new entity. By new I’m not saying it did not exist. A few special doctors knew about it. But, each had his own term for describing it. Each had his own remedies for treating it.  It wasn’t until the 1940s that experts got together to officially define COPD as we know it today.

Put it this way. Hippocrates clearly defined pneumonia as far back as 400 B.C. They had thousands of years to study pneumonia. COPD is currently being studied. As the third leading cause of death, it’s being studied hard. With modern technology, it won’t take thousands of years to cure COPD. But, it’s still going to take some time.

Why is there no cure?

My answer to the last questions should serve as an answer to this too.

But, I won’t let myself off the hook that easy. It also has to do with our understanding of COPD genes. It was only in the mid 1980s that researchers started to map out the gene code. The goal here was to learn what each gene does. So, what genes are responsible for COPD? Researchers have found a few such genes. But, it’s going to take some time to finish out this mapping.

What else do researchers need to learn?

There are specific genes responsible for keeping your lungs healthy. When you inhale noxious substances day after day after day, these genes may become damaged. This causes them to become mutated. This causes them to become COPD genes. Or, at least this is the theory. One such substance is chemicals in cigarette smoke. Another is chemicals in the air at some work environments. So, this is why doctors encourage smoking cessation. It’s why they talk about making changes in your life to prevent the progression of COPD.

How will learning about genes lead to a cure?

Your gene code acts like a cook book. It contains recipes for making your body. Each gene makes a protein. Each protein tells a cell in your body to do something. For example, some genes make proteins called cytokines. A couple cytokines responsible for COPD are TNF-a and IL8. They cause inflammation in COPD. Researchers aim to learn more about the genes that make them. Then, they hope to develop medicines to block their effects. The hope is that such medicines will help COPDers breathe easier every day. The long-term goal is that this research will some day lead to a cure.

What to make of this?

Researchers have come a long way in a short amount of time. They are studying our disease over time. So, hang in there! Take comfort in knowing that researchers have you in mind as they get up each morning and head for the lab. Their short term goal is a discovery to help you obtain better COPD control. Their long-term goal is to find that cure.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • justtom
    1 year ago


  • Pamela191
    2 years ago

    Good article. Made me feel a little bit better about this disease and what is being done about it.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you. Glad my article helped you. There are some pretty good COPD medicines right now. But, as researchers continue to study our disease, it should only get better.

  • 14ejrfc
    2 years ago

    I also understand that funding for COPD research is way down on list.

  • carolcole
    2 years ago

    I am thankful to know they are trying to find a cure for this disease. I know at my age of 70 I probably have no hope of the cure being able to help me. However, I do believe the genes are the right way to go. We pass along our genes to our beloved family members just like my dad did to me. I don’t want my children or grandchildren to have to live this way. I pray that a cure will be found in their life time. I am happy to report none of them smoke and that really makes me very happy. It just might give them the needed time they have to have should they carry the gene that would cause them to get copd. Perhaps copd will be like TB it can lay dormant until activated by some other illness. Perhaps they might be able to live in an area where the air is cleaner than where I lived. I sure hope so, because, it just might give them the needed time that is required for the doctor’s and researchers to find a cure for copd.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    2 years ago

    While there may not be a cure for COPD –yet, researchers have learned that it can surely can be prevented. This can be accomplished (as you noted) by living and working in cleaner air environments. And also by not smoking. So, glad to hear that none of your grandchildren smoke. That’s a step in the right direction, a sure sign of progress.

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