Latest Research on COPD and Exercise Tolerance

In research presented at the American Thoracic Society annual conference in Dallas in May 2019, the Pulmonary Education and Research Foundation and LA BioMed shared their most recent findings on pulmonary care and exercise tolerance.

In a collaborative study by leading pharmaceutical companies, University Academics, the COPD Foundation, and the FDA, Dr Casaburi presented details of an exercise test that can be used for FDA qualification for new therapies that target the increase of exercise tolerance in COPD patients. Specifically, this is noteworthy because until now there is no drug or other therapy available in the USA that is designed expressly to increase exercise tolerance in COPD patients. 

The study evaluated about 4,000 COPD patients and showed that a constant work rate endurance time is a sensitive measure of exercise capacity. Interestingly, the study also showed that exercise tolerance is increased by bronchodilator therapy only in severe COPD patients. 

On the other hand, the increase in exercise tolerance that follows pulmonary rehabilitation were greater than those for bronchodilators but also equally beneficial for all COPD severities, including mild to very severe. 

A presentation by Dr Rossiter shared results of a randomized controlled trial to test whether a new drug designed to reduce muscle fatigue was beneficial to increase exercise tolerance and reduce the activity of the breathing muscles in COPD patients. As part of the study, he used the constant work rate exercise test presented by Dr. Casaburi to evaluate the drug. The study was conducted at two sites in the USA, LA BioMed and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Unfortunately, with 46 volunteers the findings did not increase exercise tolerance in COPD. Nevertheless, this is the first ever study to investigate the effect of a muscle-targeted drug on exercise endurance with hopes of more in the future.

The Muscle Health Study results, presented by Dr Rossiter, used 245 volunteers at the LA BioMed. Specifically, the study measured how well the muscles of smokers with and without COPD can use oxygen to fuel exercise. The muscles of severe COPD patients were 40% less likely to use oxygen than those under control. In addition, the study found that the subjects with limitations in muscle oxygen actually had increased blood lipids.  Given these points, the authors speculate because muscles use lipids and oxygen to fuel metabolism and severe COPD muscles oxygen may lead to a build-up of lipids in the blood which in return promote cardiovascular disease and inflammation. Currently, the scientists at LA BioMed continue to follow up on these findings.

To learn more about COPD and exercise, visit PERF.

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