Researchers at Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute have discovered that microscopic blood vessels in the lungs increase and decrease in the same rhythm as a woman’s uterine lining changes. These changes may lead to new treatments for patients with advanced lung diseases who need improved oxygen absorption.
The study, led by Serpil Erzurum, M.D., Chair, Pathobiology, Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, monitored and tested 10 healthy, non-smoking women in their early 30s during their menstrual cycles. The team found that microscopic blood vessels in the lungs increase and decrease in the same rhythm as a woman’s uterine lining changes. These blood vessels are critical to the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide that occurs in the lungs during breathing. The lung diffusing capacity in women increased by 10 percent when the blood vessel formation was at its peak during the menstrual cycle, demonstrating improved in gas transfer.
The results of the study, which also looked at blood vessels in mice receiving estrogen or a placebo, were published in the November issue of Journal of Applied Physiology.
The research team found that mice that received estrogen had a greater number of microvessels, and more and smaller alveoli (small air sacs in the lungs that are the work horses during gas transfer). Together the smaller alveoli and the rich networks of new micro blood vessels increase the surface area available for transferring gases.
“It’s clear that the same factors that cause blood vessel development in the uterus and ovaries during a menstrual cycle are critical factors to how well lungs transfer gases,” said Dr. Erzurum. “Our understanding of what governs gas transfer in the lung may one day lead to therapies that encourage blood vessel formation in the lungs of patients with advanced lung diseases. Improving or augmenting oxygen intake for this patient population will represent a step forward in their care.”
The research may lead to a better understanding of airflow obstruction that occurs in some asthmatic women around the time of their menstrual cycle. It may also have implications in other lung diseases that have a predilection for women such as pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure within the arteries in the lungs.
About Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute
The Lerner Research Institute is home to all laboratory-based research at the Cleveland Clinic. Its mission is to understand the causes of human diseases and to develop new treatments and cures. The Lerner Research Institute is ranked among the top 10 in NIH funding among all U.S. research institutes for 2006. More than 1,100 people work in research programs focusing on cardiovascular, cancer, neurologic, musculoskeletal, allergic and immunologic, eye, metabolic, and infectious disease. The Institute also is an integral part of the new Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University – training the next generation of physician-scientists.
About Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland Clinic, located in Cleveland, Ohio, is a not-for-profit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Cleveland Clinic was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. U.S. News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation’s best hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey. Approximately 1,800 full-time salaried physicians and researchers at Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland Clinic Florida represent more than 100 medical specialties and subspecialties. In 2006, there were 3.1 million outpatient visits to Cleveland Clinic. Patients came for treatment from every state and from more than 80 countries. There were more than 53,000 hospital admissions to Cleveland Clinic in 2006.