Make Every Breath Count: New Test for Cystic Fibrosis
Reported January 2011
TUCSON, AZ ( Ivanhoe Newswire) -- It’s one of medicine’s big challenges, finding a cure for cystic fibrosis, a fatal, genetic disease that affects 30 thousand children and adults in the U.S. The average life expectancy is around 30 years of age. Now, scientists in Arizona are moving closer to new technology that could help doctors track the progression of CF, and improve treatment for patients.
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For 28-year-old Mindy Siler, something as simple as a breath of fresh air can trigger a debilitating attack.
"You’re like this needs to stop because I can’t breathe, I'm just coughing," Mindy Siler, told Ivanhoe.
For all her life, Mindy's battled cystic fibrosis, and symptoms that frequently put her in the hospital.
"My stays range from 23 days all the way up to 55 days, depending on how bad my lungs are," Siler said.
In CF, a chemical imbalance causes a buildup of mucus that blocks vital airways inside the lungs.
"What happens with CF is they don’t have as much chloride on the top side of cells in their lungs, actually throughout their body and that causes a drying of the lungs," Eric Snyder, Ph.D., a pharmacist and medical expert at the University of Arizona, said.
Tracking that drying generally involves an invasive test called bronchoalveolar lavage. Under general anesthesia, a tube sprays fluid into the lung, the fluid is removed and tested for key inflammatory biomarkers. Now, pharmacists and medical experts at the University of Arizona are working on a new test analyzing the tiny atoms exhaled by the patient to check the wet or dryness of the lungs. The goal is a less invasive test that could lead to better management of CF.
"I would hope eventfully as it's fine tuned, this would be more of a regular test. I tell people kind of like a glucometer for diabetics to see if any of the markers are going up before pulmonary function declines," Dr. Snyder said.
Mindy knows she can’t stop her CF, but she’s one young woman who’s not giving up.
"As long as I'm here, I'm going to fight and do everything I can to live as long as possible," Siler said.
This new test protocol for CF is still experimental. Researchers are currently comparing their less invasive breath tests to traditional and more invasive CF testing to see if they are equally accurate in monitoring the progression of cystic fibrosis in the lungs.
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Eric Snyder, PhD
University of Arizona
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