Breathing new life

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When your lungs begin to fail, the fragile lining of the blood vessels breaks down causing blood to leak out and you start to drown. If the process can’t be stopped in time, serious, irreversible damage or death occurs. The statistics on acute lung injury are as frightening as the condition itself. It kills over 30% of sufferers every year.

In a world first, a team at The Prince Charles Hospital is using a machine that revives donor lungs for transplant to help uncover the chemical differences between successfully transplanted lungs and those that fail.

Project 1: Finding the key

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“This research has the potential to change the way we treat lung disease all over the world. If we’re successful, this will completely transform people’s lives.”
Dr Dan Chambers

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The problem: Why do some lungs fail?

In many ways, lungs are a medical mystery. The first signs of breakdown and blood leakage are currently undetectable, so there’s no easy way for doctors to know when a patient’s lungs are beginning to fail. This is also why transplant specialists are unable to tell which lungs will survive, and which ones won’t. So not surprisingly, only 35% of donor lungs are able to be transplanted.

The solution: Uncovering the chemical key

Renowned thoracic transplant physician, Dr Dan Chambers, and Queensland’s chief lung transplant research scientist, Dr Stephanie Yerkovich are leading an exciting research project that hopes to uncover the elusive chemical process which occurs in the body when the lining of the cells starts to breakdown, causing blood leakage into the lungs.

“If we can identify this biomarker, we can start developing a blood test that will aid in early detection,” said Dr Yerkovich.

“This will enable transplant teams to make more informed assessments, not just of donor lungs, but of all donor organs.”

“And it will help researchers find new ways to treat failing organs.”

This research project could mean a brighter future for so many people. Not just those suffering lung disease, anyone who needs an organ transplant or anyone at risk of organ failure as well.

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