Alcohol & smoking related disease


A long-held belief that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) always gets worse has been turned on its head by a new study involving UNMC's Stephen Rennard, M.D.

COPD refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. It includes:

  • Emphysema;
  • Chronic bronchitis; and
  • In some cases, asthma.

 Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Half of those who smoke are likely to get COPD. Breathing in other kinds of irritants, like pollution, dust or chemicals, may also cause or contribute to the disease.

"This study establishes that the disease can be stable, at least over a three-year time frame and may even improve some," he said.

Stephen Rennard, M.D. discusses his research

Another key finding of the study revealed that patients with moderately severe COPD on average lose lung function more quickly than those with severe COPD.

"Drug development to slow the disease has been aimed primarily at those with severe disease when those with moderate disease are losing lung function faster," Dr. Rennard said. "I think we've frequently ignored those with moderate COPD and not treated this stage of the disease aggressively. That may be a mistake."

Whether specific treatments can stablize lung function or improve it will need to be studied, he added.


Research Highlights
It started as a casual suggestion, "maybe you should look into cilia". That comment led researcher Joe Sisson, M.D. down a path of exploring the affects of alcohol on cilia and lungs.