An international team of researchers has zeroed in on a protein that plays a key role in many lung-related ailments, from seasonal coughing and hacking to more serious diseases such as MRSA infections and cystic fibrosis.
The finding advances knowledge about this range of illnesses and may point the way to eventually being able to prevent infections such as MRSA.
The key protein is called MUC5B. It’s one of two sugar-rich proteins, with similar molecular structure, that are found in the mucus that normally and helpfully coats airway surfaces in the nose and lung. The other is MUC5AC.
“We knew these two proteins are associated with diseases in which the body produces too much mucus, such as cystic fibrosis, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and COPD,” said researcher Chris Evans, PhD, an associate professor in the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “We also knew that many patients with asthma or COPD have as much as 95 percent less MUC5B in their lungs than healthy individuals, so we wanted to see if one of these is the bad player in chronic lung diseases.”