Researchers at the University of Alabama Medical Center have discovered a new reason cigarette smoke causes lung damage.
They found that smoke inhibits leukotriene A4 hydrolase (LTA4A). This molecule is important in shutting down white blood cells following a successful response to inflammation. By not shutting down white blood cells, smokers experience ongoing inflammatory damage to the lung and airways; this leads to COPD and emphysema.
The same researchers also discovered previously unknown substrata of LTA4H called proline-glycine-proline (PGP), which actively recruits white blood cells into lunch tissues.
Discovering these two molecules naturally helps understand how smoking injures lungs, but may also lead to research that allows manipulating these molecules to reduce lung injury.
This could be of benefit not only for smoke-related lung disease, but also for other inflammation problems such as asthma and cystic fibrosis.