The protein FoxO3 plays a central role in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, according to a study reporting that a therapy that scientists are testing for cancer could rein in the protein.

One of the hallmarks of IPF is overproduction of cells known as fibroblasts and myofibroblasts that alter the structure of lungs, worsening their function. Scientists have yet to attain a full grasp of the molecular mechanisms underlying IPF. But they know that fibroblasts and myofibroblasts play a key role in the lung-structure remodeling involved in the disease.

Scientists also know that several proteins that promote lung tissue scarring, or fibrosis, are involved in myofibroblast overproduction. But they had yet to obtain an understanding of the role that FoxO3 — a molecule involved in lung fibroblast growth — played in scarring.