What if you could smoke without damaging your lungs? Researchers have discovered that blocking just one protein can prevent the lung inflammation caused by smoking, reducing the risk of some lung diseases in smokers.
One protein, called GM-CSF, appears to control the progress of a common smoker's ailment, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This disease causes inflammation of the lung tissue, which often leads to deadly conditions like emphysema. Researchers in Australia experimented wanted to see what would happen if they used a drug to block GM-CSF - would smoking still cause damage if inflammation didn't result?
The researchers exposed two groups of mice to smoke that would be equivalent to 9 cigarettes per day, for four days. GM-CSF had been blocked in half the mice; the other half were a control group. After four days, the scientists examined the mice's lung tissue for inflammation. Ross Vlahos, who researches lung disease at the University of Melbourne, confirmed that the treatment worked. He said:
Cigarette smoke-exposed mice that were treated with an anti-GM-CSF had significantly less lung inflammation in comparison to untreated mice. This indicates that GM-CSF is a key mediator in smoke-induced lung inflammation and its neutralization may have therapeutic implications in diseases such as COPD.
He cautioned that the results were only short-term, and that they have yet to see if there is long-term benefit for smokers who block GM-CSF. He added that his team's research focused only on COPD, not cancers and other diseases caused by smoking.
The point is: If you want to prevent damage from smoking to your lungs, the best way to do it is to stop smoking. Still the research does suggest that at some point, people might be able to smoke without damaging their lungs quite as much.