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Respir Med. 2002 Feb;96(2):110-4.

Urinary desmosine excretion in acute exacerbations of COPD: a preliminary report.

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Laboratorio di Biochimica e Genetica della Clinica di Malattie dell'Apparato Respiratorio, IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, Universita degli Studi di Pavia, Italy.


Desmosine (DES) is an elastin-derived, cross-link amino acid, which is not metabolized; hence, its urinary levels reflect elastin breakdown. We hypothesized that elastin degradation should increase as a result of increased lung inflammation during an acute exacerbation of COPD and should decrease after recovery. To test this hypothesis we measured DES in three urine samples from nine COPD subjects during the first 5 days of an acute exacerbation and at 2 months after recovery. We also measured forced expiratory volume in 1 sec (FEV1) to monitor the effects ofthe exacerbation on ventilatory function. The mean (SD) FEV1 was 45 (15)% predicted during the exacerbation and 57.8 (16)% predicted 2 months later (P=0.00001). The mean (SD) DES excretion was 25.3 (9) microg g(-1) creatinine at day 1;23.5 (9) at day 3 and 24 (9) at day 5 of the exacerbation. The mean (SD) urinary DES excretion 60 days after discharge was 20.9 (7) microg g(-1) creatinine (P=0.049) in comparison with the mean of the three acute-phase values. The size of the increase in desmosine excretion during exacerbation is small, 3.2 microg g(-1) creatinine or 16% of the recovery desmosine value. We conclude that there is a small but statistically significant increase in lung elastin breakdown in the body during an acute exacerbation of COPD.

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