Two million Americans live with emphysema, a disease that literally eats holes in the lungs. It’s often caused by years of smoking, but some doctors believe it’s possible to reverse the damage by simply popping a pill.
There’s nothing unusual about getting out of breath exercising, but Sharon Hanna often loses her breath before she even starts. She says, “Two years ago I was waking up in the middle of the night, just couldn’t breathe in my sleep, without any exertion, without doing anything. That was really frightening.”
A 30-year, three-pack-a-day, smoking habit has literally eaten holes in Hanna’s lungs. She knows her emphysema will only get worse. Doctors say there is no cure, but now there is hope. Inside these tiny pills is a form of vitamin a that could save her life.
Doctors know vitamin A signals lung tissue to grow in a developing fetus. Why then couldn’t it regrow lung tissue destroyed by emphysema?
“Experimental studies would show if you take away that Vitamin A the lungs fail to develop, and if you put back extra Vitamin A you can repair injury to the lung,” says pulmonologist Michael Roth, M.D. of the UCLA School of Medicine.
For the study, Hanna takes the pills for six months. Nevertheless, doctors believe it may take a year to see results. If the pill works, it won’t be available for at least five years. Until then, Hanna’s only option is to keep the rest of her body in tiptop shape.
Hanna says, “You can live a long time with it, but I’m in this study because I don’t want to just do that. I want to get better.”
Dr. Roth stresses that this is a derivative of vitamin A. He says the vitamin A on the market today would not have the same effect.
This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: http://www.ivanhoe.com/newsalert/.