UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 04 | Feb.
Research funding aims to help patients breathe easier
Study to probe how emphysema starts
by Hilary Thomson staff writer
UBC pulmonary researcher Dr. James Hogg has received $1.26
four years from the U.S. funding agency the National
Institutes of Health
(NIH) to pursue his research on the causes of emphysema.
"This support provides operating funds that will allow us to hire
and graduate students to continue this work, " says Hogg, who is a
at the UBC McDonald Research Laboratory at St. Paul's Hospital.
The goal of Hogg's research is to understand how emphysema works at the
"Everyone who smokes gets lung inflammation," says Hogg, a professor emeritus
of Pathology who has been studying emphysema for 30 years. "But only 15-20 per
cent of smokers get emphysema. We want to understand the mechanism of how
inflammation develops into disease."
He and his team are looking at latent viral infections and how they may amplify
the lung irritation caused by cigarette smoking.
Viral genes persist in lung cells over time and these latent adenoviruses are
suspected to combine with irritated tissue cells to produce disease.
He will also study why emphysema is resistant to treatment by steroids.
"Steroids are effective in managing asthma but not emphysema," he
says. "By studying the mechanism of steroid resistance we hope to
of the inflammatory response that will respond to other treatments."
There is no prevention or cure for emphysema. It can be controlled through
antibiotics and oxygen therapy if detected in the early stages.
medicine may be used to treat the asthma that can co-exist with the disease.
Emphysema, a name which comes from the Greek word to inflate, is
by enlarged lungs and irritated or infected bronchial tubes that connect the
windpipe with the lungs.
When the bronchial tubes become irritated, some of the airways
and lung function reduces. In addition, the stretching and destruction of the
walls of the tiny air spaces at the ends of the bronchial tubes lead to the
characteristic enlargement of the lungs.
Emphysema, in combination
bronchitis, is the most common form of chronic obstructive lung disease which
is the fifth most common cause of death in North America. More than
die of emphysema annually.
Hogg received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation
to conduct his current investigations as part of the iCAPTURE project
at St. Paul's Hospital that is looking for new solutions for
and blood vessel diseases.