Karim Bahmed, Ph.D.

Temple University

Protecting Alveolar Cells in Emphysema

Emphysema is caused by smoking and secondhand smoking. How emphysema develops is still not well understood. Emphysema is characterized by lung tissue destruction and death of cells in the alveoli (air sacs). Alveolar cells play an important role in lung tissue repair after injury. We have found that emphysema patients exhibit higher DNA damage in mitochondria, the microscopic power plants, inside alveolar cells. This damaged DNA contributes to cell death. We will study the mechanism of mitochondrial DNA damage in alveolar cells to determine whether a protein called XLF, which is involved in mitochondrial DNA damage repair, protects cells against this disease development and can serve as a novel therapeutic target. Targeting XLF can provide a new strategy to repair alveolar cells and slow down the development of emphysema.


We discovered that high oxidative stress induced by exposure to cigarette smoke causes XLF oxidation in emphysema. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of DNA damage in alveolar cells allows us to determine for the first time, mitochondrial dysfunction in emphysema development. A new therapeutic strategy can lead to the repair of alveolar cells, lung regeneration, and slow down the development of emphysema.

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