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An elevated microRNA (miR-21) underlies chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - reducing it reduces symptoms

04 January 2022


Many diseases wreak havoc not by introducing new villainous elements, like during infections, but by causing harmful changes to innate processes of the body. This is true of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressively debilitating condition often caused by smoking. Treatments are limited, so researchers are investigating the mechanisms behind the symptoms. They focussed on microRNAs – tiny strands of genetic material that regulate the expression of particular genes – in patients and in mice exposed to cigarette smoke. They found that the amounts of one particular microRNA, miR-21, increased in the airway linings during COPD progression (pictured, miR-21 in red and lung cells from a COPD patient in blue). Blocking this microRNA reduced inflammation and improved lung function in mice, restoring cellular pathways back to their usual rhythm. By providing a potential target for new treatments, this discovery could be a breath of fresh air for patients.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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