Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and Disorders of the Lung Blood Vessels | American Lung Association

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Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and Disorders of the Lung Blood Vessels

Acute lung injury, also known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), is a syndrome in which the small blood vessels in the lungs become widely impaired, causing them to leak fluid and inflammatory cells into the lungs as a response to infection, shock or the presence of noxious agents. It can develop in anyone over the age of one who is critically ill. A person with ARDS has rapid breathing, difficulty getting enough air into the lungs and low blood oxygen levels.

Approximately 190,000 Americans are affected with ARDS each year. ARDS can be lifethreatening because the body’s organs need oxygen-rich blood to function well. It is a major complication of extensive infection, surgery, trauma, chemotherapy and lung transplantation.

Awards & Grants

The American Lung Association is supporting a number of research projects on ARDS this year. Much of this research is aimed at understanding the underlying mechanisms of acute lung injury, with an eventual goal of developing new treatments. This year researchers are studying the cellular mechanism of leaky blood vessels in the lung; the inflammatory properties of proteins involved in acute lung injury; and how to prevent lung damage from oxygen used to treat ARDS.

Pulmonary hypertension is an abnormal elevation of blood pressure in the vessels going from the heart to the lung. One form of pulmonary hypertension is called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), which worsens over time and is life-threatening because the pressure in the arteries rises to dangerously high levels, putting a strain on the heart.

One researcher we are funding is making a “metabolic map” that will identify the pathways that are important for supporting the abnormal cell growth that is critical to drive PAH. Another is studying a group of proteins that may play a role in the development of pulmonary hypertension caused by a lack of oxygen, while a third is investigating the role of a protein in driving the development of PAH. These studies could lead to new targets for treatment.


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