Acute lung injury: FasL, apoptosis and protection by erythropoietin

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) is a common catastrophic lung condition that complicates critical illnesses of many types, most commonly severe infections. In ARDS, the cells that line the airspaces of the lung are injured and die. As a result, the lungs flood with fluid, becoming stiff, scarred and unable to transport oxygen into the bloodstream. Half of all patients with ARDS die, and there are currently no specific therapies to treat the condition, other than to provide supportive care. Erthropoieten (EPO) is a natural hormone that regulates the production of red blood cells in bone marrow. Injecting EPO is an established and safe therapy for anemia in patients with kidney failure, and it has been shown to protect against cell death in experimental models of stroke and heart attack. Patients with critical illness in the intensive care unit have abnormally low levels of EPO in their blood, leading to the hypothesis that low levels of EPO in the lung might contribute to cell injury and death in ARDS. Dr. Ruth MacRedmond’s research is the first to study the presence and activity of EPO in the lung. She is examining the ability of EPO treatment to prevent cell death caused by infection and the protective properties of EPO treatment in preventing ARDS. This project will expand our understanding of the mechanisms of cellular injury and death in ARDS, and explore the potential of EPO to act as a novel and important therapy for this devastating disease.