Mighty Mice Reveal New Hope for Pulmonary Fibrosis

A little thing called “genomic technology” could just be a game changer for people who suffer from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF.) What is genomic technology? Glad you asked.

Genomics is the study of the complete set of genetic material in an organism and explores the structure, function, and evolution of genomes. (For example, the Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project is a study of the role genes play in the development of certain types of epilepsy–a similar type of study might someday be created for other diseases, such as pulmonary fibrosis.) Genomics is similar to genetics but different in that genetics is concerned with the heredity of individual genes, whereas a genome has a complete set of genetic information for a given organism.

In plain English: A genome is a teeny-tiny sampling of an individual. Studying genomes (genomics) gives us a broader sense of who we are and how our bodies work at a molecular level.

More and more research on chronic and rare diseases is looking at our microscopic make-up to determine what went wrong. If they can pinpoint the source of the problem, then scientists believe they may be able to treat the disease at that microscopic source.

That’s exactly what researchers at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, Ill are hoping to do for the more than 132,000 Americans living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

People suffering with IPF often go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed since the symptoms are similar to COPD and asthma. IPF creates scarring in the lungs that makes breaking increasingly difficult and impairs the flow of oxygen to the body. At present, there is no cure for IPF. Current treatments ease the symptoms but cannot reverse the effects of lung damage.

But recently, Northwestern researchers discovered a new subpopulation of immune cells that may be the culprit behind this deadly disease. They believe if they can target those cells, they may be able to stop the progress of IPF. In the lab, fibrosis was prevented after these genes were removed from mice.

It’s still early in the game, of course, but scientists are optimistic that this research will not only shed light on new treatments for IPF but for other rare diseases as well.

Find out more about those genetically superior Northwestern mice and the other studies and clinical trials going on there by clicking your mouse here.

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