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1.  Diagnostic Imaging in COPD 
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a pathologic pulmonary condition characterized by expiratory airflow obstruction due to emphysematous destruction of the lung parenchyma and remodeling of the small airways. While spirometry is a very useful diagnostic tool for screening large groups of smokers, it cannot readily differentiate the etiologies of COPD and thus has limited utility in characterizing subjects for clinical and investigational purposes. There has been a longstanding interest in thoracic imaging and its role in the in-vivo characterization of smoking related lung disease. Research in this area has spanned readily available modalities such as chest x-ray and computed tomography to more advanced imaging techniques such as optical coherence tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. While chest x-ray is almost universally available, it lacks sensitivity in detecting both airway disease and mild emphysema, and is not generally amenable to objective analysis. Computed tomography has become the standard modality used for objective visualization of disease. It can provide useful measures of emphysema, airway disease, and more recently pulmonary vascular disease for clinical correlation. It does, however, face limitations in standardization across brands and generations of scanners, and the ionizing radiation associated with image acquisition is of concern to both patient and health care provider. Newer techniques such as OCT and MRI offer exciting in-vivo insight into lung structure and function that was previously available only in necropsy specimens and physiology labs. Given the more limited availability of these techniques, they are at present viewed as adjuncts to CT imaging.
PMCID: PMC4334134  PMID: 20496297
Emphysema; COPD; Imaging; computed tomography; airway disease
2.  Genome-Wide Study of Percent Emphysema on Computed Tomography in the General Population. The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Lung/SNP Health Association Resource Study 
Rationale: Pulmonary emphysema overlaps partially with spirometrically defined chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is heritable, with moderately high familial clustering.
Objectives: To complete a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for the percentage of emphysema-like lung on computed tomography in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) Lung/SNP Health Association Resource (SHARe) Study, a large, population-based cohort in the United States.
Methods: We determined percent emphysema and upper-lower lobe ratio in emphysema defined by lung regions less than −950 HU on cardiac scans. Genetic analyses were reported combined across four race/ethnic groups: non-Hispanic white (n = 2,587), African American (n = 2,510), Hispanic (n = 2,113), and Chinese (n = 704) and stratified by race and ethnicity.
Measurements and Main Results: Among 7,914 participants, we identified regions at genome-wide significance for percent emphysema in or near SNRPF (rs7957346; P = 2.2 × 10−8) and PPT2 (rs10947233; P = 3.2 × 10−8), both of which replicated in an additional 6,023 individuals of European ancestry. Both single-nucleotide polymorphisms were previously implicated as genes influencing lung function, and analyses including lung function revealed independent associations for percent emphysema. Among Hispanics, we identified a genetic locus for upper-lower lobe ratio near the α-mannosidase–related gene MAN2B1 (rs10411619; P = 1.1 × 10−9; minor allele frequency [MAF], 4.4%). Among Chinese, we identified single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with upper-lower lobe ratio near DHX15 (rs7698250; P = 1.8 × 10−10; MAF, 2.7%) and MGAT5B (rs7221059; P = 2.7 × 10−8; MAF, 2.6%), which acts on α-linked mannose. Among African Americans, a locus near a third α-mannosidase–related gene, MAN1C1 (rs12130495; P = 9.9 × 10−6; MAF, 13.3%) was associated with percent emphysema.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that some genes previously identified as influencing lung function are independently associated with emphysema rather than lung function, and that genes related to α-mannosidase may influence risk of emphysema.
PMCID: PMC3977717  PMID: 24383474
emphysema; computed tomography; multiethnic; cohort study; genetic association
3.  Understanding the contribution of native tracheobronchial structure to lung function: CT assessment of airway morphology in never smokers 
Respiratory Research  2015;16(1):23.
Computed tomographic (CT) airway lumen narrowing is associated with lower lung function. Although volumetric CT measures of airways (wall volume [WV] and lumen volume [LV]) compared to cross sectional measures can more accurately reflect bronchial morphology, data of their use in never smokers is scarce. We hypothesize that native tracheobronchial tree morphology as assessed by volumetric CT metrics play a significant role in determining lung function in normal subjects. We aimed to assess the relationships between airway size, the projected branching generation number (BGN) to reach airways of <2mm lumen diameter –the site for airflow obstruction in smokers- and measures of lung function including forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and forced expiratory flow between 25% and 75% of vital capacity (FEF 25–75).
We assessed WV and LV of segmental and subsegmental airways from six bronchial paths as well as lung volume on CT scans from 106 never smokers. We calculated the lumen area ratio of the subsegmental to segmental airways and estimated the projected BGN to reach a <2mm-lumen-diameter airway assuming a dichotomized tracheobronchial tree model. Regression analysis was used to assess the relationships between airway size, BGN, FEF 25–75, and FEV1.
We found that in models adjusted for demographics, LV and WV of segmental and subsegmental airways were directly related to FEV1 (P <0.05 for all the models). In adjusted models for age, sex, race, LV and lung volume or height, the projected BGN was directly associated with FEF 25–75 and FEV1 (P = 0.001) where subjects with lower FEV1 had fewer calculated branch generations between the subsegmental bronchus and small airways. There was no association between airway lumen area ratio and lung volume.
We conclude that in never smokers, those with smaller central airways had lower airflow and those with lower airflow had less parallel airway pathways independent of lung size. These findings suggest that variability in the structure of the tracheobronchial tree may influence the risk of developing clinically relevant smoking related airway obstruction.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12931-015-0181-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4335784
Airway wall volume; Airway lumen volume; CT; Branching generation number; Never smokers
4.  Racial Differences in CT Phenotypes in COPD 
COPD  2013;10(1):20-27.
Whether African Americans (AA) are more susceptible to COPD than non-Hispanic Whites (NHW) and whether racial differences in disease phenotype exist is controversial. The objective is to determine racial differences in the extent of emphysema and airway remodeling in COPD.
First, 2,500 subjects enrolled in the COPDGene study were used to evaluate racial differences in quantitative CT (QCT) parameters of % emphysema, air trapping and airway wall thickness. Independent variables studied included race, age, gender, education, BMI, pack-years, smoking status, age at smoking initiation, asthma, previous work in dusty job, CT scanner and center of recruitment.
Of the 1,063 subjects with GOLD Stage II-IV COPD, 200 self-reported as AA. AAs had a lower mean % emphysema (13.1 % vs. 16.1%, p = 0.005) than NHW and proportionately less emphysema in the lower lung zones. After adjustment for covariates, there was no statistical difference by race in air trapping or airway wall thickness. Measured QCT parameters were more predictive of poor functional status in NHWs compared to AAs.
AAs have less emphysema than NHWs but the same degree of airway disease. Additional factors not easily assessed by current QCT techniques may account for the poor functional status in AAs.
PMCID: PMC4321889  PMID: 23413893
Airway wall thickness; Air trapping; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Emphysema; Quantitative CT; Race
5.  Factors associated with bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome and chronic graft-versus-host disease after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation 
American journal of hematology  2014;89(4):404-409.
Bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS) is a form of chronic graft vs. host disease (cGVHD) and a highly morbid pulmonary complication after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). We assessed the prevalence and risk factors for BOS and cGVHD in a cohort of HSCT recipients, including those who received reduced intensity conditioning (RIC) HSCT. Between January 1, 2000 and June 30, 2010, all patients who underwent allogeneic HSCT at our institution (n = 1854) were retrospectively screened for the development of BOS by PFT criteria. We matched the BOS cases with two groups of control patients: (1) patients who had concurrent cGVHD without BOS and (2) those who developed neither cGVHD nor BOS. Comparisons between BOS patients and controls were conducted using t-test or Fisher’s exact tests. Multivariate regression analysis was performed to examine factors associated with BOS diagnosis. All statistical analyses were performed using SAS 9.2. We identified 89 patients (4.8%) meeting diagnostic criteria for BOS at a median time of 491 days (range: 48–2067) after HSCT. Eighty-six (97%) of our BOS cohort had extra-pulmonary cGVHD. In multivariate analysis compared to patients without cGVHD, patients who received busulfan-based conditioning, had unrelated donors, and had female donors were significantly more likely to develop BOS, while ATG administration was associated with a lower risk of BOS. Our novel results suggest that busulfan conditioning, even in RIC transplantation, could be an important risk factor for BOS and cGVHD.
PMCID: PMC4314109  PMID: 24375545
Emphysema has distinct and well-defined visually apparent CT patterns called centrilobular and panlobular emphysema. Existing studies concentrated on the classification of these patterns but they have not looked at the complete evolution of this disease as the destruction of lung parenchyma progresses from normal lung tissue to mild, moderate, and severe disease with complete effacement of the lung architecture. In this paper, we discretize this continuous process into five classes of increasing disease severity and construct a training set of 1161 CT patches. We exploit three solutions to this monotonic multi-class classification problem: a global rankSVM for ranking, hierarchical SVM for classification and a combination of these two, which we call a hierarchical rankSVM. Results showed that both hierarchical approaches were computationally efficient. The classification accuracies were slightly better for hierarchical SVM. However, in addition to classification, ranking approaches also provided a ranking of patterns, which can be utilized as a continuous disease progression score. In terms of the classification accuracy and ratio of pair-wise constraints satisfied, hierarchical rankSVM outperformed the global rankSVM.
PMCID: PMC4254822  PMID: 25485040
emphysema; COPD; multi-class classification; rankSVM
7.  Short-Term Exposure to Air Pollution and Lung Function in the Framingham Heart Study 
Rationale: Short-term exposure to ambient air pollution has been associated with lower lung function. Few studies have examined whether these associations are detectable at relatively low levels of pollution within current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.
Objectives: To examine exposure to ambient air pollutants within EPA standards and lung function in a large cohort study.
Methods: We included 3,262 participants of the Framingham Offspring and Third Generation cohorts living within 40 km of the Harvard Supersite monitor in Boston, Massachusetts (5,358 examinations, 1995–2011) who were not current smokers, with previous-day pollutant levels in compliance with EPA standards. We compared lung function (FEV1 and FVC) after previous-day exposure to particulate matter less than 2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3) in the “moderate” range of the EPA Air Quality Index to exposure in the “good” range. We also examined linear relationships between moving averages of pollutant concentrations 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7 days before spirometry and lung function.
Measurements and Main Results: Exposure to pollutant concentrations in the “moderate” range of the EPA Air Quality Index was associated with a 20.1-ml lower FEV1 for PM2.5 (95% confidence interval [CI], −33.4, −6.9), a 30.6-ml lower FEV1 for NO2 (95% CI, −60.9, −0.2), and a 55.7-ml lower FEV1 for O3 (95% CI, −100.7, −10.8) compared with the “good” range. The 1- and 2-day moving averages of PM2.5, NO2, and O3 before testing were negatively associated with FEV1 and FVC.
Conclusions: Short-term exposure to PM2.5, NO2, and O3 within current EPA standards was associated with lower lung function in this cohort of adults.
PMCID: PMC3919078  PMID: 24200465
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; asthma; air pollutants; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
8.  Deformable Registration of Feature-Endowed Point Sets Based on Tensor Fields 
The main contribution of this work is a framework to register anatomical structures characterized as a point set where each point has an associated symmetric matrix. These matrices can represent problem-dependent characteristics of the registered structure. For example, in airways, matrices can represent the orientation and thickness of the structure. Our framework relies on a dense tensor field representation which we implement sparsely as a kernel mixture of tensor fields. We equip the space of tensor fields with a norm that serves as a similarity measure. To calculate the optimal transformation between two structures we minimize this measure using an analytical gradient for the similarity measure and the deformation field, which we restrict to be a diffeomorphism. We illustrate the value of our tensor field model by comparing our results with scalar and vector field based models. Finally, we evaluate our registration algorithm on synthetic data sets and validate our approach on manually annotated airway trees.
PMCID: PMC4248604  PMID: 25473253
We present a novel airway labeling algorithm based on a Hidden Markov Tree Model (HMTM). We obtain a collection of discrete points along the segmented airway tree using particles sampling [1] and establish topology using Kruskal’s minimum spanning tree algorithm. Following this, our HMTM algorithm probabilistically assigns labels to each point. While alternative methods label airway branches out to the segmental level, we describe a general method and demonstrate its performance out to the subsubsegmental level (two generations further than previously published approaches). We present results on a collection of 25 computed tomography (CT) datasets taken from a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) study.
PMCID: PMC4245147  PMID: 25436039
10.  Comparison of spirometric thresholds in diagnosing smoking related airflow obstruction 
Thorax  2013;69(5):409-414.
The diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is based on detection of airflow obstruction on spirometry. There is no consensus regarding using a fixed threshold to define airflow obstruction versus using the lower limit of normal (LLN) adjusted for age. We compared the accuracy and discrimination of the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) recommended Fixed ratio of FEV1/FVC<0.70 with LLN in diagnosing smoking related airflow obstruction using computed tomography defined emphysema and gas trapping as the disease gold standard.
Data from a large multicenter study (COPDGene), which included current and former smokers (age range 45 to 80 years) with and without airflow obstruction, was analyzed. Concordance between spirometric thresholds was measured. The accuracy of the thresholds in diagnosing emphysema and gas trapping was assessed using quantitative CT as gold standard.
7743 subjects were included. There was very good agreement between the two spirometric cut-offs (kappa = 0.85; 95%CI=0.83–0.86, p<0.001). 7.3% were discordant. Subjects with airflow obstruction by Fixed ratio only had a greater degree of emphysema (4.1% vs 1.2%, p<0.001) and gas trapping (19.8% vs 7.5%, p<0.001) than those positive by LLN only, and also smoking controls without airflow obstruction (4.1% vs 1.9%, and 19.8% vs 10.9% respectively, p<0.001). On follow up, the Fixed ratio only group had more exacerbations than smoking controls.
As compared to the Fixed ratio, the use of LLN will fail to identify a number of patients with significant pulmonary pathology and respiratory morbidity.
PMCID: PMC4146523  PMID: 23525095
Fixed ratio; Lower Limit of Normal; Spirometry; COPD
11.  Distinct Quantitative Computed Tomography Emphysema Patterns Are Associated with Physiology and Function in Smokers 
Rationale: Emphysema occurs in distinct pathologic patterns, but little is known about the epidemiologic associations of these patterns. Standard quantitative measures of emphysema from computed tomography (CT) do not distinguish between distinct patterns of parenchymal destruction.
Objectives: To study the epidemiologic associations of distinct emphysema patterns with measures of lung-related physiology, function, and health care use in smokers.
Methods: Using a local histogram-based assessment of lung density, we quantified distinct patterns of low attenuation in 9,313 smokers in the COPDGene Study. To determine if such patterns provide novel insights into chronic obstructive pulmonary disease epidemiology, we tested for their association with measures of physiology, function, and health care use.
Measurements and Main Results: Compared with percentage of low-attenuation area less than −950 Hounsfield units (%LAA-950), local histogram-based measures of distinct CT low-attenuation patterns are more predictive of measures of lung function, dyspnea, quality of life, and health care use. These patterns are strongly associated with a wide array of measures of respiratory physiology and function, and most of these associations remain highly significant (P < 0.005) after adjusting for %LAA-950. In smokers without evidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the mild centrilobular disease pattern is associated with lower FEV1 and worse functional status (P < 0.005).
Conclusions: Measures of distinct CT emphysema patterns provide novel information about the relationship between emphysema and key measures of physiology, physical function, and health care use. Measures of mild emphysema in smokers with preserved lung function can be extracted from CT scans and are significantly associated with functional measures.
PMCID: PMC3863741  PMID: 23980521
emphysema; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; spiral computed tomography; epidemiology
12.  Airway wall thickness is increased in COPD patients with bronchodilator responsiveness 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):84.
Bronchodilator responsiveness (BDR) is a common but variable phenomenon in COPD. The CT characteristics of airway dimensions that differentiate COPD subjects with BDR from those without BDR have not been well described. We aimed to assess airway dimensions in COPD subjects with and without BDR.
We analyzed subjects with GOLD 1–4 disease in the COPDGene® study who had CT airway analysis. We divided patients into two groups: BDR + (post bronchodilator ΔFEV1 ≥ 10%) and BDR-(post bronchodilator ΔFEV1 < 10%). The mean wall area percent (WA%) of six segmental bronchi in each subject was quantified using VIDA. Using 3D SLICER, airway wall thickness was also expressed as the square root wall area of an airway of 10 mm (Pi10) and 15 mm (Pi15) diameter. %Emphysema and %gas trapping were also calculated.
2355 subjects in the BDR-group and 1306 in the BDR + group formed our analysis. The BDR + group had a greater Pi10, Pi15, and mean segmental WA% compared to the BDR-group. In multivariate logistic regression using gender, race, current smoking, history of asthma, %emphysema, %gas trapping, %predicted FEV1, and %predicted FVC, airway wall measures remained independent predictors of BDR. Using a threshold change in FEV1 ≥ 15% and FEV1 ≥ 12% and 200 mL to divide patients into groups, the results were similar.
BDR in COPD is independently associated with CT evidence of airway pathology. This study provides us with greater evidence of changes in lung structure that correlate with physiologic manifestations of airflow obstruction in COPD.
PMCID: PMC4198908  PMID: 25248436
Bronchodilator responsiveness; Airway wall thickness; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Airflow obstruction
13.  Mitophagy-dependent necroptosis contributes to the pathogenesis of COPD 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(9):3987-4003.
The pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) remains unclear, but involves loss of alveolar surface area (emphysema) and airway inflammation (bronchitis) as the consequence of cigarette smoke (CS) exposure. Previously, we demonstrated that autophagy proteins promote lung epithelial cell death, airway dysfunction, and emphysema in response to CS; however, the underlying mechanisms have yet to be elucidated. Here, using cultured pulmonary epithelial cells and murine models, we demonstrated that CS causes mitochondrial dysfunction that is associated with a reduction of mitochondrial membrane potential. CS induced mitophagy, the autophagy-dependent elimination of mitochondria, through stabilization of the mitophagy regulator PINK1. CS caused cell death, which was reduced by administration of necrosis or necroptosis inhibitors. Genetic deficiency of PINK1 and the mitochondrial division/mitophagy inhibitor Mdivi-1 protected against CS-induced cell death and mitochondrial dysfunction in vitro and reduced the phosphorylation of MLKL, a substrate for RIP3 in the necroptosis pathway. Moreover, Pink1–/– mice were protected against mitochondrial dysfunction, airspace enlargement, and mucociliary clearance (MCC) disruption during CS exposure. Mdivi-1 treatment also ameliorated CS-induced MCC disruption in CS-exposed mice. In human COPD, lung epithelial cells displayed increased expression of PINK1 and RIP3. These findings implicate mitophagy-dependent necroptosis in lung emphysematous changes in response to CS exposure, suggesting that this pathway is a therapeutic target for COPD.
PMCID: PMC4151233  PMID: 25083992
14.  Implications of the GOLD 2011 Disease Severity Classification in the COPDGene Cohort 
The 2011 Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of COPD (GOLD) consensus report uses symptoms, exacerbation history and FEV1% to define four categories: A, low symptoms/low risk; B, high symptoms/low risk; C, low symptoms/high risk; and D, high symptoms/high risk where risk refers to exacerbations, hospitalization and death. Our objective was to determine (1) the influence of symptom instrument on category membership and (2) prospective exacerbation risk by category.
4,484 COPD subjects from COPDGene were analyzed. All subjects had smoking history ≥ 10 pack-years and FEV1/FVC<0·7. Categories were defined using the modified Medical Research Council Dyspnea [mMRC] (0–1 versus ≥ 2) and the Saint George’s Respiratory Questionnaire [SGRQ] (≥25 versus <25 as a surrogate for the COPD Assessment Test ≥ 10 versus <10) in addition to COPD exacerbations in the prior year (<2 versus ≥ 2), and FEV1% predicted (≥50 versus <50).
Category assignment using mMRC versus SGRQ were similar but not identical. Using the mMRC, category assignments were 34% A, 21% B, 8% C and 38% D and for SGRQ were 29% A, 25% B, 5% C and 41% D (kappa=0·77). Significant heterogeneity in exacerbation rates (exacerbations/person-year) were seen particularly within the D group, depending on the risk factor that determined category assignment (lung function (0·89), prior exacerbation history (1·34) or both (1·86), p<0·001.
The GOLD classification emphasizes the importance of symptoms and exacerbation risk in assessing COPD severity. The choice of symptom measure influences category assignment. The relative number of subjects with low symptoms and high risk for exacerbations (category C) is low. Differences in exacerbation rates for subjects in the highest risk category D were seen depending on whether risk was based on lung function, exacerbation history or both.
PMCID: PMC4105297  PMID: 24321803
15.  Computed Tomographic Measures of Pulmonary Vascular Morphology in Smokers and Their Clinical Implications 
Rationale: Angiographic investigation suggests that pulmonary vascular remodeling in smokers is characterized by distal pruning of the blood vessels.
Objectives: Using volumetric computed tomography scans of the chest we sought to quantitatively evaluate this process and assess its clinical associations.
Methods: Pulmonary vessels were automatically identified, segmented, and measured. Total blood vessel volume (TBV) and the aggregate vessel volume for vessels less than 5 mm2 (BV5) were calculated for all lobes. The lobe-specific BV5 measures were normalized to the TBV of that lobe and the nonvascular tissue volume (BV5/TissueV) to calculate lobe-specific BV5/TBV and BV5/TissueV ratios. Densitometric measures of emphysema were obtained using a Hounsfield unit threshold of −950 (%LAA-950). Measures of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease severity included single breath measures of diffusing capacity of carbon monoxide, oxygen saturation, the 6-minute-walk distance, St George’s Respiratory Questionnaire total score (SGRQ), and the body mass index, airflow obstruction, dyspnea, and exercise capacity (BODE) index.
Measurements and Main Results: The %LAA-950 was inversely related to all calculated vascular ratios. In multivariate models including age, sex, and %LAA-950, lobe-specific measurements of BV5/TBV were directly related to resting oxygen saturation and inversely associated with both the SGRQ and BODE scores. In similar multivariate adjustment lobe-specific BV5/TissueV ratios were inversely related to resting oxygen saturation, diffusing capacity of carbon monoxide, 6-minute-walk distance, and directly related to the SGRQ and BODE.
Conclusions: Smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is characterized by distal pruning of the small blood vessels (<5 mm2) and loss of tissue in excess of the vasculature. The magnitude of these changes predicts the clinical severity of disease.
PMCID: PMC3778757  PMID: 23656466
pulmonary vasculature morphology; CT scan; smoking; COPD
16.  Impact of self-reported Gastroesophageal reflux disease in subjects from COPDGene cohort 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):62.
The coexistence of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and COPD has been recognized, but there has been no comprehensive evaluation of the impact of GERD on COPD-related health status and patient-centered outcomes.
Cross-sectional and longitudinal study of 4,483 participants in the COPDGene cohort who met GOLD criteria for COPD. Physician-diagnosed GERD was ascertained by questionnaire. Clinical features, spirometry and imaging were compared between COPD subjects without versus with GERD. We evaluated the relationship between GERD and symptoms, exacerbations and markers of microaspiration in univariate and multivariate models. Associations were additionally tested for the confounding effect of covariates associated with a diagnosis of GERD and the use of proton-pump inhibitor medications (PPIs). To determine whether GERD is simply a marker for the presence of other conditions independently associated with worse COPD outcomes, we also tested models incorporating a GERD propensity score.
GERD was reported by 29% of subjects with female predominance. Subjects with GERD were more likely to have chronic bronchitis symptoms, higher prevalence of prior cardiovascular events (combined myocardial infarction, coronary artery disease and stroke 21.3% vs. 13.4.0%, p < 0.0001). Subjects with GERD also had more severe dyspnea (MMRC score 2.2 vs. 1.8, p < 0.0001), and poorer quality of life (QOL) scores (St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) total score 41.8 vs. 34.9, p < 0.0001; SF36 Physical Component Score 38.2 vs. 41.4, p < 0.0001). In multivariate models, a significant relationship was detected between GERD and SGRQ (3.4 points difference, p < 0.001) and frequent exacerbations at baseline (≥2 exacerbation per annum at inclusion OR 1.40, p = 0.006). During a mean follow-up time of two years, GERD was also associated with frequent (≥2/year exacerbations OR 1.40, p = 0.006), even in models in which PPIs, GERD-PPI interactions and a GERD propensity score were included. PPI use was associated with frequent exacerbator phenotype, but did not meaningfully influence the GERD-exacerbation association.
In COPD the presence of physician-diagnosed GERD is associated with increased symptoms, poorer QOL and increased frequency of exacerbations at baseline and during follow-up. These associations are maintained after controlling for PPI use. The PPI-exacerbations association could result from confounding-by-indication.
PMCID: PMC4049804  PMID: 24894541
COPD; Gastroesophageal reflux; Comorbidity; Exacerbations; Quality-of-life; Chronic bronchitis
17.  Basal Gene Expression by Lung CD4+ T Cells in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Identifies Independent Molecular Correlates of Airflow Obstruction and Emphysema Extent 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96421.
Lung CD4+ T cells accumulate as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) progresses, but their role in pathogenesis remains controversial. To address this controversy, we studied lung tissue from 53 subjects undergoing clinically-indicated resections, lung volume reduction, or transplant. Viable single-cell suspensions were analyzed by flow cytometry or underwent CD4+ T cell isolation, followed either by stimulation with anti-CD3 and cytokine/chemokine measurement, or by real-time PCR analysis. In lung CD4+ T cells of most COPD subjects, relative to lung CD4+ T cells in smokers with normal spirometry: (a) stimulation induced minimal IFN-γ or other inflammatory mediators, but many subjects produced more CCL2; (b) the T effector memory subset was less uniformly predominant, without correlation with decreased IFN-γ production. Analysis of unstimulated lung CD4+ T cells of all subjects identified a molecular phenotype, mainly in COPD, characterized by markedly reduced mRNA transcripts for the transcription factors controlling TH1, TH2, TH17 and FOXP3+ T regulatory subsets and their signature cytokines. This mRNA-defined CD4+ T cell phenotype did not result from global inability to elaborate mRNA; increased transcripts for inhibitory CD28 family members or markers of anergy; or reduced telomerase length. As a group, these subjects had significantly worse spirometry, but not DLCO, relative to subjects whose lung CD4+ T cells expressed a variety of transcripts. Analysis of mRNA transcripts of unstimulated lung CD4+ T cell among all subjects identified two distinct molecular correlates of classical COPD clinical phenotypes: basal IL-10 transcripts correlated independently and inversely with emphysema extent (but not spirometry); by contrast, unstimulated IFN-γ transcripts correlated independently and inversely with reduced spirometry (but not reduced DLCO or emphysema extent). Aberrant lung CD4+ T cells polarization appears to be common in advanced COPD, but also exists in some smokers with normal spirometry, and may contribute to development and progression of specific COPD phenotypes.
Trial Registration as NCT00281229
PMCID: PMC4013040  PMID: 24805101
18.  The Role and Potential of Imaging in COPD 
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a heterogeneous condition of the lungs and body. It is increasingly clear that spirometric measures of lung function alone are inadequate for a complete understanding of the impact of disease and are insufficient for the categorization of disease severity. Techniques in chest imaging and quantitative image analysis have advanced to the point where they can provide novel in-vivo insight into disease and potentially examine divergent responses to therapy. The following will review the strengths and limitations of some of the leading imaging techniques, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and optical coherence tomography (OCT). Following a brief explanation of the technique, each section will detail some of the potentially useful information obtained with these examinations. Future clinical care and investigation will likely include some combination of these imaging modalities and more standard assessments of disease severity.
PMCID: PMC4004058  PMID: 22793941
COPD; imaging; CT scan; MRI; PET; OCT
19.  Clinical and computed tomographic predictors of chronic bronchitis in COPD: a cross sectional analysis of the COPDGene study 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):52.
Chronic bronchitis (CB) has been related to poor outcomes in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). From a clinical standpoint, we have shown that subjects with CB in a group with moderate to severe airflow obstruction were younger, more likely to be current smokers, male, Caucasian, had worse health related quality of life, more dyspnea, and increased exacerbation history compared to those without CB. We sought to further refine our clinical characterization of chronic bronchitics in a larger cohort and analyze the CT correlates of CB in COPD subjects. We hypothesized that COPD patients with CB would have thicker airways and a greater history of smoking, acute bronchitis, allergic rhinitis, and occupational exposures compared to those without CB.
We divided 2703 GOLD 1–4 subjects in the Genetic Epidemiology of COPD (COPDGene®) Study into two groups based on symptoms: chronic bronchitis (CB+, n = 663, 24.5%) and no chronic bronchitis (CB-, n = 2040, 75.5%). Subjects underwent extensive clinical characterization, and quantitative CT analysis to calculate mean wall area percent (WA%) of 6 segmental airways was performed using VIDA PW2 ( Square roots of the wall areas of bronchi with internal perimeters 10 mm and 15 mm (Pi10 and Pi15, respectively), % emphysema, %gas trapping, were calculated using 3D Slicer (
There were no differences in % emphysema (11.4 ± 12.0 vs. 12.0 ± 12.6%, p = 0.347) or % gas trapping (35.3 ± 21.2 vs. 36.3 ± 20.6%, p = 0.272) between groups. Mean segmental WA% (63.0 ± 3.2 vs. 62.0 ± 3.1%, p < 0.0001), Pi10 (3.72 ± 0.15 vs. 3.69 ± 0.14 mm, p < 0.0001), and Pi15 (5.24 ± 0.22 vs. 5.17 ± 0.20, p < 0.0001) were greater in the CB + group. Greater percentages of gastroesophageal reflux, allergic rhinitis, histories of asthma and acute bronchitis, exposures to dusts and occupational exposures, and current smokers were seen in the CB + group. In multivariate binomial logistic regression, male gender, Caucasian race, a lower FEV1%, allergic rhinitis, history of acute bronchitis, current smoking, and increased airway wall thickness increased odds for having CB.
Histories of asthma, allergic rhinitis, acute bronchitis, current smoking, a lower FEV1%, Caucasian race, male gender, and increased airway wall thickness are associated with CB. These data provide clinical and radiologic correlations to the clinical phenotype of CB.
PMCID: PMC4067738  PMID: 24766722
Chronic bronchitis; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Airway thickening; Asthma
20.  Emphysema Classification Based on Embedded Probabilistic PCA 
In this article we investigate the suitability of a manifold learning technique to classify different types of emphysema based on embedded Probabilistic PCA (PPCA). Our approach finds the most discriminant linear space for each emphysema pattern against the remaining patterns where lung CT image patches can be embedded. In this embedded space, we train a PPCA model for each pattern. The main novelty of our technique is that it is possible to compute the class membership posterior probability for each emphysema pattern rather than a hard assignment as it is typically done by other approaches. We tested our algorithm with six emphysema patterns using a data set of 1337 CT training patches. Using a 10-fold cross validation experiment, an average recall rate of 69% is achieved when the posterior probability is greater than 75%. A quantitative comparison with a texture-based approach based on Local Binary Patterns and with an approach based on local intensity distributions shows that our method is competitive. The analysis of full lungs using our approach shows a good visual agreement with the underlying emphysema types and a smooth spatial relation.
PMCID: PMC3918501  PMID: 24110601
22.  MUC5B Promoter Polymorphism and Interstitial Lung Abnormalities 
The New England journal of medicine  2013;368(23):2192-2200.
A common promoter polymorphism (rs35705950) in MUC5B, the gene encoding mucin 5B, is associated with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. It is not known whether this polymorphism is associated with interstitial lung disease in the general population.
We performed a blinded assessment of interstitial lung abnormalities detected in 2633 participants in the Framingham Heart Study by means of volumetric chest computed tomography (CT). We evaluated the relationship between the abnormalities and the genotype at the rs35705950 locus.
Of the 2633 chest CT scans that were evaluated, interstitial lung abnormalities were present in 177 (7%). Participants with such abnormalities were more likely to have shortness of breath and chronic cough and reduced measures of total lung and diffusion capacity, as compared with participants without such abnormalities. After adjustment for covariates, for each copy of the minor rs35705950 allele, the odds of interstitial lung abnormalities were 2.8 times greater (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.0 to 3.9; P<0.001), and the odds of definite CT evidence of pulmonary fibrosis were 6.3 times greater (95% CI, 3.1 to 12.7; P<0.001). Although the evidence of an association between the MUC5B genotype and interstitial lung abnormalities was greater among participants who were older than 50 years of age, a history of cigarette smoking did not appear to influence the association.
The MUC5B promoter polymorphism was found to be associated with interstitial lung disease in the general population. Although this association was more apparent in older persons, it did not appear to be influenced by cigarette smoking. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others; number, NCT00005121.)
PMCID: PMC3747636  PMID: 23692170
We present a probability model for lung airways in computed tomography (CT) images. Lung airways are tubular structures that display specific features, such as low intensity and proximity to vessels and bronchial walls. From these features, the posterior probability for the airway feature space was computed using a Bayesian model based on 20 CT images from subjects with different degrees of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The likelihood probability was modeled using both a Gaussian distribution and a nonparametric kernel density estimation method. After exhaustive feature selection, good specificity and sensitivity were achieved in a cross-validation study for both the Gaussian (0.83, 0.87) and the nonparametric method (0.79, 0.89). The model generalizes well when trained using images from a late stage COPD group. This probability model may facilitate airway extraction and quantitative assessment of lung diseases, which is useful in many clinical and research settings.
PMCID: PMC3838922  PMID: 24280685
CT; lung; probability model; airway segmentation; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
24.  Histone deacetylase 6–mediated selective autophagy regulates COPD-associated cilia dysfunction 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(12):5212-5230.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) involves aberrant airway inflammatory responses to cigarette smoke (CS) that are associated with epithelial cell dysfunction, cilia shortening, and mucociliary clearance disruption. Exposure to CS reduced cilia length and induced autophagy in vivo and in differentiated mouse tracheal epithelial cells (MTECs). Autophagy-impaired (Becn1+/– or Map1lc3B–/–) mice and MTECs resisted CS-induced cilia shortening. Furthermore, CS increased the autophagic turnover of ciliary proteins, indicating that autophagy may regulate cilia homeostasis. We identified cytosolic deacetylase HDAC6 as a critical regulator of autophagy-mediated cilia shortening during CS exposure. Mice bearing an X chromosome deletion of Hdac6 (Hdac6–/Y) and MTECs from these mice had reduced autophagy and were protected from CS-induced cilia shortening. Autophagy-impaired Becn1–/–, Map1lc3B–/–, and Hdac6–/Y mice or mice injected with an HDAC6 inhibitor were protected from CS-induced mucociliary clearance (MCC) disruption. MCC was preserved in mice given the chemical chaperone 4-phenylbutyric acid, but was disrupted in mice lacking the transcription factor NRF2, suggesting that oxidative stress and altered proteostasis contribute to the disruption of MCC. Analysis of human COPD specimens revealed epigenetic deregulation of HDAC6 by hypomethylation and increased protein expression in the airways. We conclude that an autophagy-dependent pathway regulates cilia length during CS exposure and has potential as a therapeutic target for COPD.
PMCID: PMC3859407  PMID: 24200693
25.  Randomized Trial of Zileuton for Treatment of COPD Exacerbations Requiring Hospitalization 
COPD  2011;8(1):21-29.
Leukotrienes have been implicated in the pathogenesis of acute exacerbations of COPD, but leukotriene modifiers have not been studied as a possible therapy for exacerbations.
We sought to test the safety and efficacy of adding oral zileuton (a 5-lipoxygenase inhibitor) to usual treatment for acute exacerbations of COPD requiring hospitalization.
Randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group study of zileuton 600 mg orally, 4 times daily versus placebo for 14 days starting within 12 hours of hospital admission for COPD exacerbation. Primary outcome measure was hospital length of stay; secondary outcomes included treatment failure and biomarkers of leukotriene production.
Main Findings
Sixty subjects were randomized to zileuton and 59 to placebo (the study was stopped short of enrollment goals because of slow recruitment). There was no difference in hospital length of stay (3.75±2.19 vs. 3.86±3.06 days for zileuton vs. placebo, p=0.39) or treatment failure (23% vs. 27% for zileuton vs. placebo, p=0.63) despite a decline in urinary LTE4 levels in the zileuton-treated group as compared to placebo at 24 hours (change in natural log-transformed ng/mg creatinine −1.38± 1.19 vs. 0.14±1.51, p<0.0001) and 72 hours (−1.32±2.08 vs. 0.26±1.93, p<0.006). Adverse events were similar in both groups.
Principal Conclusions
While oral zileuton during COPD exacerbations that require hospital admission is safe and reduces urinary LTE4 levels, we found no evidence suggesting that this intervention shortened hospital stay, with the limitation that our sample size may have been insufficient to detect a modest but potentially meaningful clinical improvement.
PMCID: PMC3775706  PMID: 21299475
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD); Acute exacerbation of COPD (AECOPD); Leukotrienes; Zileuton; Clinical trial

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