The immune cells want to protect the lungs from foreign bodies. They multiply, explains Yildirim, but the increased immune reaction causes damage to the lung tissue – which in turn is not curable until now. For this he and colleagues were looking for German Cancer Research Center a solution. They examined the lymphotoxin beta receptor to find out what role it plays in the development of COPD and whether it can be used for therapeutic purposes.
How cells are stimulated to heal themselves
Receptors work like antennas on the roof; if you remove them, the signal no longer reaches the television. It works similarly in the cell. In the study, the researchers blocked precisely this receptor and thus triggered a chain reaction. The immune cells stopped the overproduction and epithelial cells no longer died. According to Yildirim, the research team found two things:
That we simultaneously prevent cell death and that we can activate a self-healing process in the lung epithelial cells. We enable the lung epithelial cells to regenerate themselves.
This approach is now to be pursued further. For the study, tests with mice showed almost 100 percent healing in the lungs. For the research team led by Yildirim, a clear ray of hope that COPD is curable. The scientists want to test this therapeutic approach in human clinical studies over the next few years.