Intentional cooling of the body may help improve acute respiratory distress syndrome

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A tenth of all intensive care unit patients worldwide, and many critical patients with COVID-19, have acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Therapeutic hypothermia, an intentional cooling of the body, has been suggested as a way to improve ARDS.

New research by Chiara Autilio and colleagues in the lab of Jesus Perez-Gil at the Complutense University of Madrid shows not only how therapeutic hypothermia works in the lungs at the molecular level, but also why it could be successfully applied to ARDS. Autilio and her colleagues’ work was published in Nature Scientific Reports in January 2021 and will be presented on Tuesday, February 23 at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society to be held virtually.

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Inside our lungs, surfactant is a molecular mixture that is essential for breathing. Premature babies are sometimes born without yet having developed surfactant and require emergency surfactant replacement treatments in order to breathe. But surfactant is also inactivated and broken up in adults with lung injuries or inflammation.

Because therapeutic hypothermia, a cooling of the body to about 33°C (or 91°F), has been used to improve breathing for some premature babies and for some kinds of cardiac arrest in adults, and some early studies have shown a benefit for ARDS, Autilio and colleagues wanted to know if cooling could impact surfactant…

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