MONDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- Otherwise healthy smokers with low DLCO have elevated levels of endothelial microparticles (EMPs) in their blood, which may help clinicians diagnose early stage emphysema, according to research published online March 11 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Cynthia Gordon, of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, and colleagues assessed lung health in an initial cohort of 92 healthy nonsmokers, healthy smokers, and smokers with early signs of lung destruction to see if EMP levels were higher in the latter. They then examined lung health in an additional cohort similar to the first, as well as a cohort of subjects with HIV.
The researchers found that healthy smokers and those with early signs of damage but with normal spirometry and DLCO had slightly higher levels of EMPs compared with nonsmokers. However, 95 percent of the healthy smokers with normal spirometry and low DLCO had a significant increase in EMP levels.
"Plasma EMPs with apoptotic characteristics are elevated in smokers with normal spirometry but reduced DLCO, consistent with the concept that emphysema is associated, in part, with capillary endothelium apoptosis, suggesting that the early development of emphysema might be monitored with plasma EMP levels," the authors write.