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New treatment for lung diseases 'a step closer' after breakthrough

The discovery could lead to better therapies for ailments such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, researchers said.

Lung cancer deaths in Scottish women rising

New treatments for some lung diseases are a step closer thanks to research that pinpoints why existing drugs are "ineffective", according to scientists.

The discovery could lead to better therapies for ailments such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, researchers said.

These conditions can fail to respond to the most widely-used treatments, glucocorticoid drugs (GCs).

The University of Edinburgh said its study sheds new light on the complex biological processes that cause lung inflammation, the immune system's response to disease caused by bacterial infection.

Scientists analysed blood samples, focusing on the vital role that certain white blood cells, called neutrophils, play in fighting infection.

Neutrophils normally only have a lifespan of a few hours but, when they are called into action at sites of inflammation, they can survive for several days to carry out their protective functions. In doing so, they absorb more oxygen than usual.

But the Edinburgh scientists have found that GCs can be ineffective because, at inflammation sites, there is not enough oxygen for the drugs to function efficiently.

Treatments that are less reliant on oxygen supply are therefore more likely to be effective, researchers said.

They made their finding by taking neutrophils from the blood of healthy volunteers and studying the effect that oxygen had on the lifespan of the cells.

When there were healthy levels of oxygen in the blood, the drugs could keep the cells alive for longer.

Lead researcher Professor Adriano Rossi, of the university's MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, said: "Most diseases afflicting humans have an important inflammatory component.

"Understanding the fundamental mechanisms and processes controlling inflammation will undoubtedly lead to the development of much-needed, safer anti-inflammatory drugs."

Fellow study author Dr John Marwick, also of the centre, said: "Inflammatory diseases contribute to countless deaths and suffering, and deciphering how important inflammatory cells live and function is vital."

The research was carried out along with researchers at the University of California and CXR Biosciences in Dundee.

The study, published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, was funded by Medical Research Scotland and the Medical Research Council.

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