Hopkins doctors hopeful for sarcoidosis cure

Stacy M. Brown | 9/6/2013, noon
Three years ago, lung researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital identified a possible protein trigger responsible for sarcoidosis, a potentially fatal ...
Edward Chen,M.D., assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University. PIC: Dr.Chen.jpg Courtesy photo

— “The increase in production of serum amyloid A explains for the first time how inflammation can persist in the lungs without being triggered by an active infection,” Moller said.

Dr. Chen, the study’s lead investigator, says the findings also cleared the path for developing drug treatments or vaccines that can block serum amyloid A from binding to cell receptors and kicking off inflammation.

“Not only have we shown [in the study] that serum amyloid A is a key protein trigger in sarcoidosis, but we also have evidence that the resulting

inflammation is dependent on binding the protein at toll-like receptor-2, which opens up a host of possibilities that drugs blocking this binding site could prove an effective treatment for this disease,” Dr. Chen said.

Dr. Moller says that his team has plans to use the study results to create diagnostic tests that could better predict which people with the disease are likely to heal on their own or are more likely to suffer persistent inflammation, which can lead to scarring, difficulty breathing, and heart failure that can only be fixed by lung transplantation.

The impact of sarcoidosis on life expectancy depends on whether the disease has caused significant permanent damage to the lungs or other organ(s) where the sarcoidosis has been found.

“For mild cases of sarcoidosis, this disease may not have any effect on life expectancy,” Dr. Chen said. “For those patients with severe lung disease needing oxygen, or other severe organ damage from sarcoidosis, such as heart failure, then they will be expected to have an increased risk of passing from complications from their sarcoidosis.”