Researchers have identified a protein which could lead to early detection of COPD.
The possible biomarker, heat shock protein 27 (HSP27), was found to be elevated in COPD patients. By analyzing HSP27 levels, doctors may be able to treat COPD at an early stage.
"If you smoke, ask your doctor about testing for COPD."
The study was led by Hendrik Jan Ankersmit, M.D., from the Department of Thoracic Surgery at the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Cardiac and Thoracic Diagnosis and Regeneration. Researchers examined 120 smokers who appeared to be healthy, to determine if elevated levels of HSP27 in the blood were associated with other early warning signs of COPD such as emphysema, reduced lung function and air trapping.
HSP27 is a protein that plays a role in cell regulation and how a cell is affected by heat. To determine if HSP27 could be a biomarker, researchers performed lung function tests and blood samples were conducted on the 120 participants while 94 underwent a high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scan.
Air trapping occurs when air gets stuck in certain parts of the lungs making it difficult to exhale and reducing lung function. Out of the 120 patients, over 57 percent had air trapping or emphysema with air trapping.
The participants with air trapping or emphysema, had higher levels of HSP27 in their blood compared to the participants who did not have air trapping or emphysema.
Researchers did not find an association between lung function and levels of HSP27.
Elevated levels of HSP27 could be a potential sign of early COPD. The study showed an association between early signs of COPD using radiological techniques such as a CT scan. This could be useful for younger smokers who may not have significant lung function impairment.
Future studies could include a larger population of participants to determine if HSP27 levels could be an effective biomarker for COPD in a diverse group of individuals. Researchers could also analyze levels of HSP27 in participants who have been diagnosed with COPD to determine how HSP27 levels are affected over the course of the disease.
No funding information was provided.
This study was published in the March edition of Respiration.