Blood pressure drug could fix lung damage in smokers

A new study from Johns Hopkins shows that commonly used blood pressure drugs can prevent the most serious smoking-related lung damage in those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the nation's third leading cause of death.

The study involved mice but researcher expect to launch clinical trials in humans with COPD, including chronic emphysema and bronchitis.

The drug losartan, or known as Cozaar, prevented almost all lung damaged caused from two months of exposure to cigarette smoke. It addressed lung tissue breakdown, airway wall thickening, inflammation and lung over-expansion that make it hard to breath.

There are currently no treatments to prevent or repair lung damage in those with COPD, which now amounts to 12 million Americans. There are only treatments addressing symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing and mucus production and surgery.

"Because these drugs are already approved for use in the United States as safe and effective treatments for hypertension, incorporating them into our treatment regimen for COPD would be quite rapid,” said the mice study senior investigator Dr. Enid Neptune. a Hopkins pulmonologist and an associate professor. 

Researchers say the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, could be the breakthrough treatment for lung damage in smokers. The investigaiton began after another Hopkins researcher found the same drugs useful in treating Marfan syndrome which results from a genetic mutation and weakens arteries.

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