Method for isolating circulating epithelial pulmonary cells and their use as markers for diagnosing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a common disease, preventable and treatable, which is characterized by persistent respiratory symptoms and the limitation of air efflux due to anomalies in the respiratory ways and/or alveolar caused by a significant exposition to harmful particles or gases.
The disease can appear as an inflammatory process, known as Bronchitis, or as a process where alveolar destruction can happen, which is known as emphysema, which leads to a reduction in the surface available for gas exchange.
In cases where there is alveolar destruction, epithelial cells are exposed to a higher amount of mechanical traumatisms. This, together with the fact that tissue regeneration through mitotic proliferation is not enough, a number of injuries appear, and also there is a chance that rests of the pulmary parenchyma and elements of the extracellular matrix can pass to the bloodstream, because the alveolar macrophages are not capable of phagocytize and eliminate the degraded pulmonary material, including both Type I and Type II pneumocytes and surfactant.
Depiction of the extracellular matrix in a healthy lung and in one affected with COPD
One of the characteristics of COPD is that there is a great variability in the loss of the pulmonary function among patients, existing the possibility that the processes that alter the pulmonary maturation during childhood would predispose in a significant way to the development of the disease.
Until today, COPD diagnosis was based in the observation of the clinical symptoms such as cough, expectoration and dyspnea, and an analysis of the pulmonary function through spirometry. These symptoms appear once the disease is at an advanced stage.
Based on the premise that the rests of the lung parenchyma can pass to the bloodstream, researchers have developed a diagnosis method that allows the early identification of the individuals that suffer the disease, or that have a high risk in developing it, through the identification of these compounds in blood.
In order to do so, they use a combination of markers that allow the unequivocal identification of circulating lung cells (intracytoplasmic, nuclear and surface markers).
This technique has a great versatility since, depending on the markers chosen, it could be used for detecting other pathologies that carry epithelial damage, such as adenocarcinomas, squamous carcinomas or emphysemas.
It would also allow the detection of early epithelial damage in other body organs where there is a high epithelial renovation rate (liver, kidneys, reproductive organs, guts…) as long as the proper markers for its detection will be used.
Advantages and Benefits
- Noninvasive technique, easily reproducible and specific
- Early and specific detection of the existence of COPD
- Possibility of a personalized monitoring of the patient
- Is a highly versatile technique: depending on the chosen markers, the technique could be used for detecting other pathologies, such as adenocarcinomas, scamous carcinomas or emphysemas.
- The technique might also detect epithelial damage in other vital organs that have a high epithelial renovation rate (liver, reproductive organs…), using specific markers.
License agreement and/or collaboration.
Sectors of application: Medicine, diagnostic.
Stage of development: Patent in process.
Priority date: 24/05/2017.
Owner: University of Granada / Servicio Andaluz de Salud (Fundación Progreso y Salud).