I am finding that most Dr.'s on this subject to just not be there. Maybe because emphysema is such a politically incorrect disease to have, even if it has nothing to do with smoking or who knows. (maybe the payback isn't good) I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I do have a science degree(environmental) and my youngest has several degrees - undergraduate/honors in molecular genetics & minor in biochemistry, one and 1/2 years biophysics, 4 years PCMB (plant cellular molecular biology) and Plant pathology. My question (comment) mostly to the Dr.'s out there is why no discussion on cure or at least more than what you are talking about at the present. I KNOW of three areas that should be explored right off the bat! One: Gene therapy to repair alveoli and smooth lung tissue, Biotech to actually devise some sort of O2 concentrator machine to be implanted in the lungs, and the one that most interests me,another genetic thing, which would involve people in Andes and the Himalayas that were always thought to have just bigger lungs- Not true. They actually utilize O2 in the hemoglobin in a more efficient way. Any Dr. out there, I dare you to comment on line publicly!
Smoking or intense exposures to the smoke from burning bio-mass fuels, especially in impoverished countries, has just about everything to do with emphysema. Emphysema is a destructive disease. It destroys lung tissue and, thus far no methods have been devised to re-grow lung tissue. Gene therapy has potential, not to recreate lung tissue but to reduce the airway inflammation that results in emphysema, be it smoking-induced or other. Research is underway on gene therapy but the results thus far have been very disappointing.
The adaptation to chronic residence at high altitude has been studied extensively. You are correct in stating that bigger lungs have nothing to do with it and that has been well known for nearly 100 years. Hyperventilation is one of the main mechanisms the body employs to address hypoxia. The 2 basic blood adaptations, to sustained hypoxia, to improve oxygen transport to tissues are: 1) an increased oxygen-carrying capacity from an increase in the number of red blood cells; and 2) an altered affinity of hemoglobin for the oxygen molecule, that facilitates increased transfer from blood to tissues.
Implantation of an oxygen concentrator in the lungs is not feasible and may never be even with nanotechnology, given the serious inherent problems associated with the placement of a foreign body in the human body. The current provision of supplemental oxygen from an external source is easy, safe and increasingly more convenient. One would have to ask why anyone would want to place a concentrator inside the body when lightweight, less than 10 pounds, portable, battery-driven (2 batteries lasting 8 hours) concentrators are already commercially available.
I have spoken to a number of molecular genetics and bio-tech people on this subject. one being my son, that's how I know so many of them. I'm told, as of now anyways, that the most feasible would be to isolate the gene that enables the hemoglobin to utilize O2 better in tissues. As far as the nano-tech aspect, much more futuristic but sometimes things just happen, these would not be anything like an oxygen concentrators that we have now. It would be a tiny machine like structure. I like talking to hard science people as their imaginations take them places most M.D.'s dare not go! As far as why would I or anybody even suggest such things, I can only say that they have never walked around a mall with a tank/concentrator and nose hose on. That's what keeps most of them at home. As for myself I only use O2 at night but if I did need it 24/7 I would go out regardless. Just thinking to the future.
Did you see on the news last night, 6/29/09 CBS, about repairing damaged heart tissue by using the patients own heart stem cells. I googled immediately about other organ research using this method, and they are, including lungs. Already been done on mice.
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