Liquid Chromatography

  • What is IPF and How Can Chromatography Help?

What is IPF and How Can Chromatography Help?

Feb 26 2018 Read 5951 Times

Some people will remember ‘Cheggers Plays Pop’ and ‘Multi-Coloured Swap Shop’ entertaining kids before CBBC and sophisticated kids TV channels. One of the stalwarts of those programs was Cheggers — Keith Chegwin. He went on to present ‘Naked Jungle’ on Channel 5, a move he described as ‘the worst career move’.

Why mention Cheggers in a chromatography item? Well unfortunately Keith Chegwin died in December 2017 due to a condition called IPF. A recent study published in the journal Respiratory Research has reported on a new method that could help to diagnose this condition without using invasive techniques, and potentially develop treatments for the disease. Let’s take a closer look at IPF and see what chromatography is helping to achieve.

IPF — Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease of the respiratory system — if the cause of the disease is unknown, it is known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), with idiopathic meaning unknown cause. The disease involves a thickening of lung tissue that leads to scarring. The scarring is thought to be due to excessive inflammation of the tiny air sacs of the lungs. One cause of this could be due to the cells of the air sacs trying to heal themselves after damage — cigarette smoke, air pollution or an infection could be triggers for the damage.

Spotting IPF — short of breath?

One of the problems with the condition is that it is difficult to spot. The symptoms come on very slowly at first and start with a shortness of breath. Naturally, some people put this down to just getting older or not being fit. But the condition can get worse over time — and a dry cough and increasing fatigue can take hold. Like other conditions that progress untreated, IPF can place the heart under increasing strain — in this instance due to rising blood pressure in the blood vessels in the lungs.

Besides it slow progress, IPF’s symptoms are also very similar to other lung conditions making prognosis difficult. Scans of the chest and a biopsy of lung tissue are usually required to confirm a diagnosis of IPF. But a recent study reports on a new diagnosis method that is much less invasive. Good news for patients.

Chromatography marks the blood

Scientists from Switzerland have used ultra high-performance liquid spectrometry with high resolution mass spectrometry (UHPLC-HRMS) to search for blood biomarkers for IPF. Blood biomarkers are simply molecules that might indicate an illness or condition. The use of UHPLC-MS to analyse samples is discussed in the article, Enhanced Peptide Identification Using Capillary UHPLC and Orbitrap Mass Spectrometry.

The team evaluated ten metabolic blood features and managed to find evaluated levels in samples taken from IPC patient’s blood of three metabolites. One of the metabolites was lysophosphatidylcholine — a precursor of lysophosphatidic acid, which has been shown to accelerate lung scarring. The team will look to expand on their work using chromatography to help identify the acids potential as a biomarker for IPF.


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