Reviewed by Russell P. Bowler, MD, PhD
Airways of the lung with emphysema

People with COPD often have emphysema, whose hallmark symptom is shortness of breath. Causes of emphysema primarily include smoking.

Emphysema refers to damage to the walls of the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. This is the portion of the lung involved in the transfer of oxygen into the blood stream. This results in a smaller total number of air sacs. Fewer air sacs means that the lungs are not able to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream as well. Also, the lungs may not be able to get rid of carbon dioxide as well. 

The damaged lungs loose their stretchiness or elasticity, like a rubber party balloon that has been blown up and deflated many times. Over time, this causes the air sacs, and the lungs, to become even bigger (hyperinflation). Hyperinflated lungs do not function as well as normal lungs.

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Clinical Trials

Age Dependent Effects of Cigarette Smoke in Humans

Mouse testing has shown  that smoke exposure affects certain cells differently in the lung depending on age. This study is designed to test this effect in humans.

If you meet the initial phone screening qualifications, your study participation will consist of 2 or 3 visits to National Jewish Health''s main campus. This study requires each participant to undergo a bronchoscopy procedure at the last visit. 

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