Research highlight

Health: A new treatment for COPD?

Nature Communications

March 11, 2015

A drug that is currently used to treat osteoarthritis could help to ease the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and smoking induced emphysema, suggests a mouse study in Nature Communications.

COPD is a collection of diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, where the airways become inflamed, causing shortness of breath. It is associated with significant mortality and also increases the risk of developing lung cancer. Macrophages in the alveoli of the lungs play a major role in the progression of emphysema, especially in the case of smokers, and there is currently no treatment.

Masahiko Kurabayashi and colleagues now report that a drug, called alendronate, eases symptoms in a mouse model of COPD. The drug, which only alleviates symptoms if inhaled, appears to selectively target macrophages and trigger them to die. Recent advances in the management of COPD have helped reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms, but new treatments are still very much needed. Alendronate is already in clinical use for metabolic bone disease and it is known to be safe and well-tolerated by users when ingested. The authors hope that the drug will prove a novel, effective, non-invasive and safe treatment option for COPD.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms7332

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