Growth-factor antibody may treat chronic lung disease affecting premature infants

Armen Hareyan's picture

Infant chronic lung disease

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, in collaboration with scientists from the Genzyme Corporation, have identified a potential treatment for a chronic lung disease affecting premature infants. In a study to appear in the American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, which has received early online release, the scientists find that the activity of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta, a protein that controls many essential cellular functions) is elevated in the lungs of an animal model of bronchopulmonary dysplasia and that treatment with an antibody to TGF-beta both decreased the growth factor's activity and improved lung development.

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"Our findings show for the first time that TGF-beta is a major player in causing bronchopulmonary dysplasia and that inhibiting its activity in the injured newborn lung may decrease the severity or incidence of this disease," says Jesse Roberts Jr., MD, of the MGH departments of Anesthesia and Pediatrics and the Cardiovascular Research Center, the paper's senior author. "Since bronchopulmonary dysplasia is the most significant lung disease of premature infants, these results are very exciting."

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) affects about 15 percent of premature infants, resulting in chronic lung disease in 10,000 to 20,000 infants in the U.S. each year, and is often caused by the mechanical ventilation and oxygen therapy required for their survival. Since BPD is more common in the most premature infants