Is Nicotine the Answer to Treating Chronic Lung Disease?

Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have discovered the highly addictive drug in tobacco products, called nicotine, may help people with sarcoidosis, a chronic inflammatory lung disease.

The main symptom of most lung diseases is shortness of breath, however, with sarcoidosis, its debilitating fatigue makes it frequently misdiagnosed. When left untreated, the disease can cause severe lung damage and even death.

It is currently treated with steroids, which often have side effects that are more severe than the symptoms of the disease itself. Dr. Elliott Crouser, a pulmonologist specializing in sarcoidosis, said in a statement:

Now, Dr. Crouser believes there may be some good results using nicotine, and he is now conducting a clinical trial at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. In the trial, nicotine patches will be used to see whether the nicotine contained helps with the chronic inflammatory lung disease.

In the trial, nicotine patches will be used to see whether the nicotine contained helps with the chronic inflammatory lung disease. (Image: via wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the trial, nicotine patches will be used to see whether the nicotine contained helps with the chronic inflammatory lung disease. (Image: wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0)

During a small initial study, the patches, which are normally used to help people stop smoking, indicated there was some benefit. The researchers are now conducting a larger, randomized trial. Dr. Crouser went on to say:

Some trial participants will receive a patch with nicotine, while others will be given a placebo. Researchers will then evaluate lung function for seven months using computerized axial tomography (CAT scans), along with computer models, to monitor disease progression or improvement.

It is not known what causes sarcoidosis, however, experts believe it’s related to an environmental exposure. It is also unclear what triggers the disease, as the symptoms vary in each person. Many patients can recover from the disease or go into remission; however, for some, it’s a chronic condition. Dr. Crouser explains that:

To find out more about the trial, or to see if you’re eligible, go to studysearch.

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