From Our Chief Medical Officer

“Things are not always what they seem,… The first appearance deceives many.” With that, the Greek philosopher Phaedrus could have been foretelling the modern-day evolution of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). What was once seen as “simply” a lung disease has proven itself to be much more than what it seemed. Indeed, it remains a mysterious disease with many faces as it works throughout a person’s system.

Today we know that COPD is an inflammatory disease that has vast impact beyond the lungs, affecting the heart, bones and muscles. The mysteries that researchers worldwide are addressing now include the “how and why” of COPD’s inflammation and its effect throughout the body: Why doesn’t the inflammation stop when the patient stops smoking? Why and how is the disease reaching other parts of the body? Is it the inflammation?

The disease itself is a worldwide problem, with at least 210 million people affected around the globe. We see COPD virtually everywhere, and as we look at COPD in developing countries, we begin to see it as a global menace that goes beyond smoking, the primary known cause of COPD in the U.S. Medical and public health experts are beginning to look into this international face of the mystery as well.

In this issue of Promise of Research, we touch on hot COPD research topics and meet Scott Alper, PhD, whose research investigating genes that cause lung inflammation may be among the first of many scientific steps we take toward understanding genes that regulate lung inflammation and new therapies for COPD. We also highlight volunteer Laura Wilder’s commitment to use her professional insight to help individuals with COPD live better lives, which reminds us all why we need to keep investing in research—to improve and save the lives of millions.

Norman H. Edelman, MD
Chief Medical Officer