The Cystic Fibrosis Gene
Cystic Fibrosis is a hereditary disease in which the lungs, liver and pancreas secrete large amounts of thick mucus. A cystic fibroses patient has difficulty breathing because mucus clogs his lungs. He/she cannot digest food completely because plugs of mucus prevent the liver and the pancreas from secreting their digestive enzymes. The blockage by mucus also damages tissues in the organs involved. Many victims die of lung infections. Cystic fibrosis, also called mucoviscidosis, cannot be cured. Scientists do not know the exact nature of the inherited defect that causes cystic fibrosis. The disease is diagnosed by testing the patient's perspiration. Persons with cystic fibrosis have large amounts of salt in their perspiration, saliva, and tears, particularly the perspiration. No cure is known, but health can be improved and life extended considerably with antibiotics and attention to pulmonary complication. Since this disease has been recognized for only some 30 years, further experience is needed before life expectancy data are meaningful.