Scientists have gained new insight into how the lungs and other organs of cystic fibrosis patients become clogged with mucus or other secretions. Researchers found a link between the severity of some forms of cystic fibrosis and the ability of a key protein to move particular molecules bicarbonate ions across cell membranes.
Up until recently, doctors thought that the symptoms were caused by the blocked movement of chloride ions. But the new research suggests bicarbonate ions also play a role.
The findings suggest that boosting bicarbonate flow in CF patients' crippled organs, including the lungs and pancreas, could lessen their disease. But how doctors might do that is still unclear.
Cystic fibrosis afflicts about 30,000 American children and young adults.
The findings appear in today's issue of the journal Nature.