Improved treatment hope for lung disease patients

Monash research, enabled by two recent grants, may lead to better treatment options for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis.

Monash University’s Associate Professor Paul King, a respiratory and sleep physician at Monash Health, was awarded nearly $100,000 to further his research into debilitating lung disease.

Associate Professor King received $50,000 from the Australian Respiratory Council (a near-miss NHMRC project grant) to study the role of viral influenza in extracellular trap formation in the lung.  He was also awarded $45,000 by the 65 km ride for cystic fibrosis Foundation to study how cells kill bacteria in the lungs of children with cystic fibrosis.

Associate Professor King said a collaboration between Monash Lung and Sleep and the Centre for Inflammatory Diseases has established a unique level of expertise to study extracellular traps in lung tissue in both human and animal models.

“Extracellular traps are made when immune cells, triggered by the presence of bacteria, shoot out their DNA in a web-like form,” Associate Professor King said.

“DNA is normally stored safely inside the nucleus of cells, however in some circumstances, cells can use their DNA to fight infections by throwing out traps to capture and kill bacteria.”

These DNA fibres are known as neutrophil extracellular traps, or NETs. However there is another form of extracellular trap made by macrophages called METs which are have not been previously recognised

“Although METs trap and kill bacteria, the expression of these extracellular traps is an inflammatory process that may cause tissue damage in chronic diseases,” Associate Professor King said.

“We’ve known for some time that NETs work as a defence mechanism in other parts of the body, however, this is the first time we’re studying macrophage extracellular traps in the lungs of humans and animals.”

“This has the potential for us to understand for the first time how the body fights inflammation in the lungs, and therefore may lead to treatments for lung diseases including COPD.”