THURSDAY, May 15, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they may be able to prevent the tissue damage that lung diseases, such as emphysema, cause by treating the patient with doxycycline, an antibiotic commonly used to treat acne.
In experiments on mice, doxycycline -- which is also used to treat common ailments such as sinusitis and urinary tract infections -- appears to counter low levels of VEGF, a protein that helps to maintain healthy lung tissue but is in unusually low levels in people with emphysema.
"The images that we have of the lungs of mice that have been treated with doxycycline are startlingly different to those that we didn't treat," Ellen C. Breen, from the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, said in a prepared statement. "VEGF-deficient lungs show vast pockets of tissue damage when untreated and greatly reduced damage when treated with doxycycline."
While the experiments show that doxycycline clearly can play a role in preventing lung tissue damage, Breen stressed that it is too early to say whether it could help humans with a genetic predisposition to lung disease.
"It's also important to remember that we were treating the mice with the drug whilst inducing the symptoms of lung disease, so this is by no means a cure," she said.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about emphysema.