Potential new approach to cystic fibrosis treatment reported
October 9, 1999
Web posted at: 10:46 p.m. EDT (0246 GMT)
SEATTLE (CNN) -- Researchers have discovered that high doses
of a specific fatty acid can reduce symptoms of cystic
fibrosis in mice -- a finding that potentially could lead to
a treatment for a disease that is now incurable in humans.
People with cystic fibrosis exhibit high levels of
arachidonic acid (AA) and low levels of docosahexaenoic acid
(DHA). Researchers who bred mice with the genetic defect that
causes cystic fibrosis found that the mice exhibited the same
imbalance of fatty acids.
But in mice that were fed large doses of DHA for a week, the
imbalance was corrected and signs of cystic fibrosis in the
pancreas, intestines and lungs were reversed, researchers
The findings were presented Saturday at the Cystic Fibrosis
Foundation's annual scientific conference in Seattle.
While the findings are preliminary and involved only animals,
researchers said the findings might also apply to people with
cystic fibrosis because the fatty acid imbalance is similar.
Experts in the disease attending the conference say they are
encouraged by the findings.
Cystic fibrosis is a fatal hereditary genetic disease in
which a thick, sticky mucus clogs airways in the lungs,
triggering lung infections. The average patient dies at 32,
and, while doctors can treat symptoms with antibiotics and
agents to loosen mucus, there is no cure.
DHA is a fatty acid found in fish oils and breast milk, and
it is also available without a prescription as a dietary
supplement. However, researchers cautioned that taking DHA
supplements in large amounts can be harmful and that the DHA
derivative would have to be reformulated to be useful as a
treatment in people.
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Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Cystic Fibrosis Index of On-Line Resources
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