Christmas is upon us, and what is Christmas without a little gift wishing? Right now, doctors are wishing they had something in their arsenal that currently doesn’t exist to better help their COPD patients. Every patient could use something – be it a medicine to prevent flare-ups or something to improve symptoms. And these are real wishes – things that aren’t asking for Dr. Gru’s moon or the ability to play basketball with Lebron James.
Surely you can wish for just about anything, but that doesn’t mean you will get it; we like to keep our wishes at least somewhat realistic. All of the wishes below are things that are in the realm of possibility. With researchers working overtime to learn about our disease at genetic levels, anything is possible, EVEN A CURE!
So what do you say, Santa? Got time to slide down a few chronic lunger chimneys? Here’s a list of 5 gifts that would benefit the COPD community.
1. Blood test to detect who is susceptible to developing COPD.
Shortly after you are born, a simple blood test will detect whether or not you have COPD genes. If you do, then your parents can receive genetic counseling about ways of preventing you from developing it. This education would begin by encouraging parents never to let you be exposed to cigarette smoke, or to take on jobs that would expose you to environmental hazards that would increase your COPD risk, such as those that expose you to dust, fumes, chemicals, air pollution, etc. This would also make you a prime candidate for trying other medicines on our wish list, beginning with #2.
2. Protease inhibitors.
Protease are enzymes responsible for the destruction of debris and dead lung tissue. Antiprotease are enzymes responsible for inhibiting protease to prevent them from destroying healthy lung tissue. Mutations on the genes responsible for either one may cause an excess of protease. With nothing else to do, they get bored and start eating healthy lung tissue, and this causes emphysema. This process is enhanced when you inhale chemicals in cigarette smoke or other air pollutants day in and day out. What we are wishing for is a vaccine-like injection to block the effects of protease, or to greatly reduce their production. This would be a simple way of preventing you from developing COPD.
3. Antiprotease enhancers.
Or, if that’s not possible, how about a medicine that tells genes to secrete proteins that enhance the production of antiprotease. This would help keep protease levels at bay, preventing them from getting bored and eating healthy lung tissue. This would be a once in a lifetime injection, like a vaccine to prevent COPD.
4. How about a pill that brings up “SAT” levels!
YOUR IDEA! This is an idea one of you sent to me. Oxygen is needed for cellular metabolism, and it is essentially what keeps us all alive. Diseased lungs make it hard for some areas of your lungs to get oxygen from inhaled air into your bloodstream, resulting in lowered arterial oxygen levels, or hypoxemia. This is measured using a pulse oximeter. It can tell you what percentage oxygen inhaled is attached to hemoglobin molecules inside your arteries. This is called oxygen saturation, or SAT (Not STAT, as some like to refer to it). A normal saturation level is 98%, although anything greater than 90% is acceptable. Currently, the only way to increase your oxygen levels at home is by wearing a nasal cannula and inhaling supplemental oxygen from a tank or an oxygen concentrator. Our idea here is a pill that you swallow that makes oxygen your cells can use. I think it would be a nice trade off, taking a pill every day as opposed to being attached to a leash (another name for oxygen tubing).
5. A pill to absorb the retained CO2 in COPDers.
YOUR IDEA!!! This is another an idea one of you sent to me. During cellular metabolism, oxygen is used and carbon dioxide (CO2) is created. CO2, therefore, is a waste product, and it travels through your blood to your lungs, where it is exhaled into the atmosphere. Some people with diseased lungs have elevated CO2 levels. During COPD flare-ups, CO2 may rise to critical levels. BiPAP machines can be used to help you take deeper breaths to blow off the excess CO2. However, one of you suggested that researchers look into creating a pill to suck up some of the extra CO2. That would be nice. I think many of you would trade off taking a pill every day to using BiPAP or CPAP.
Sure, you can wish for inhuman-like power, like David Ortiz-like power to hit 38 home runs at the age of 40. Or you could wish for the ability to breathe underwater and swim as fast as a shark like Michael Phelps. But, those wishes aren’t very realistic. Ours, at least, are in the realm of possibility – sort of!
So, these are a few ideas. I’m sure you folks can come up with some even better ones to add to our list. Write your ideas in the comments below, and we’ll combine them with ours and send a long list to Santa in time for his Elves to work their magic.