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Fat behind lung damage of heavy drinkers

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New York, July 1 :

Drinking heavily may damage your body in many ways. In addition to liver failure, build-up of fat may even lead to failure of immune system in lungs of alcoholics, says a study.

Alcoholics are at a greater risk of developing lung diseases such as pneumonia and life threatening acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), for which there is no treatment.

(Pic courtesy: pbinstitute.com)
(Pic courtesy: pbinstitute.com)

“We call it the alcoholic fatty lung,” said Ross Summer, associate professor at Thomas Jefferson University in the US.

“The fat accumulation in the lungs mimics the process that causes fat to build up and destroy the liver of alcoholics,” he added.

The lungs contain a subpopulation of cells that make fat. Surfactant producing cells expel a fatty secretion onto the inner lining of the lung to keep the airways properly lubricated during breathing.

The researchers investigated whether these surfactant cells might behave in a similar way to liver cells after extended alcohol exposure by also accumulating fat.

After extended exposure to alcohol in rats, the researchers noticed that surfactant cells increased their production of triglycerides by 100 percent and free fatty acids by 300 percent, compared to rats fed an non-alcoholic diet with the same number of calories.

The researchers also noticed fat-up not only in surfactant cells but also in lung macrophages, which are immune cells that normally engulf and digest bacteria or sick cells in the lung.

The researchers showed that these fat-exposed macrophages were much less effective at killing bacteria than normal macrophages.

The study appeared in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology.

(IANS)