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June 10, 1983

Cigarettes pose dual threat in emphysema

JAMA. 1983;249(22):3007. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330460011005

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Cigarette smoking poses a double danger for emphysema sufferers, according to a recent report.

It is known that smoking deactivates a protein that is seemingly crucial in preventing the disease; it now also appears that smoking prevents the repair of affected lung tissue. But ongoing investigations into the molecular basis of emphysema are doing more than underlining the dangers of smoking; they are providing researchers with targets for early diagnosis and possible treatment.

Recent findings in this area were presented by Ines Mandl, PhD, at the recent American Chemical Society meeting in Seattle. For more than a decade, emphysema has been thought to be the result of an imbalance between proteolytic enzymes and their inhibitors in the lower respiratory tract. Unless kept in check, these enzymes chew away at the connective tissue in the lung, leading to the enlargement of distal air spaces and destruction of alveolar cell walls. Research