NUS scientists have discovered a novel property of a protein found in human lungs which could lead to the development of biologic drugs to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a debilitating, progressive lung disease that is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.
Associate Professor Ge Ruowen (left) from NUS Biological Sciences and Professor Fred Wong (right) of NUS Pharmacology
The research was led by Associate Professor Ge Ruowen from NUS Biological Sciences and published in the prestigious scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in January 2022.
COPD is currently the third-leading cause of death globally and poses a large socioeconomic burden on nations. It can be caused by long-term exposure to irritants or particulate matter, such as cigarette smoke, and symptoms include coughing, breathing difficulties, mucus production and wheezing.
Patients with COPD display two key conditions - emphysema (the destruction of alveolar walls and enlargement of the alveoli) and chronic obstructive bronchitis (inflamed small airways). These patients suffer persistent respiratory symptoms with progressive long-term lung function decline. However, current drugs targeting COPD only provide symptomatic relief and are not able to suppress the underlying tissue inflammation to effectively block the spread of COPD or reduce mortality.