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UC Davis Testing New Idea To Treat Emphysema Patients

DAVIS (CBS13) — People suffering from emphysema don't have great therapy options, but UC Davis Health is participating in a clinical trial of a new device that might help them breathe better.

Mark Anderson is at UC Davis Medical Center for a few hours doing a series of tiring and painful breath tests. He has emphysema, likely from four decades of smoking.

MORE INFORMATION: Join the clinical trial

"It's not easy," he said. "It's not a life that I would have chose, although I chose it."

It creates diseased portions of the lungs which have trouble expelling air, leaving little room for fresh air to go in.

"It can range from being subtle with a chronic cough once in a while, with few limitations, to people that are breathless all the time," said Dr. Brian Morrissey.

UC Davis is taking part in a clinical trial of a new device aimed at improving lung function in emphysema patients. It's a tiny valve that's inserted into the airways leading to the diseased part of the lungs. It blocks fresh air from going to the bad part of the lung, but also allows old air to escape.

"What we're trying to do is get rid of the bad parts of the lungs, so to speak—make them not participate in a breath by allowing them to deflate if you will, or collapse a little bit," he said.

Anderson is taking part in the trial and recently had four of the valves implanted a month ago. He can't tell if they're helping yet.

"I'm willing to take the risk because essentially my lungs are so damaged that it can only help," he said.

Anderson will come back to UC Davis every few months to monitor his progress. If the valve proves to be safe and helpful for patients, it could get FDA approval and be widely prescribed.

"If it helps other people, I think it'd be cool," Anderson said.

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