New research being done on cystic fibrosis

News

Like Local 3 News on Facebook:

Imagine losing nearly all of your siblings to cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that makes it difficult to breathe. There are some treatments, but so far, no cure.  

But Wanda O’Neal is working to turn her personal tragedy into triumph. 

Dr. Wanda O’Neal, Marsico Lung Institute UNC Cystic Fibrosis Center says, “My mom had nine children, yeah, it was a big family.”

Dr. O’Neal gets emotional when talking about her eight siblings. 

She says, “I knew that my sisters and brothers had cystic fibrosis.” 

In fact, six out of the nine children were diagnosed with the debilitating lung disease. 

Dr. O’Neal continues, “My sister Nancy, she was the first to pass away.” 

One by one, O’Neal watched helplessly as five of her siblings became sick with pneumonia, eventually succumbing to CF.

Searching for a way to turn tragedy into triumph, Dr. O’Neal has dedicated her life to CF research at the University of North Carolina. 

Dr. O’Neal says, “We’re making steps.” 

Amazingly, O’Neal’s  50-year old brother Mike is living with CF. Her team of researchers is working to identify what’s helped him survive. Researchers are also taking the CFTR protein that’s defective in patients and altering it in the lab so it works better to keep mucus in the lungs hydrated. UNC scientists are collaborating with drug companies on treatments that would make the defective protein work better in patients.

Dr. Richard Boucher, UNC Marsico Lung Institute director explains, “We’re developing the 
technology to actually personalize it, to tailor the optimal therapy for that person.” 

Dr. O’Neal says she will never stop working to find a cure for CF, with the memory of her siblings pushing her on. 

Dr. O’Neal says, “It makes a difference that people still remember them for the people that they were, not the disease that they had.” 

A family’s fight, inspiring hope in the battle against cystic fibrosis.

The UNC researchers say the new treatments should be available in three to five years. The hope is to extend the life span of patients from their 40’s well into their 70’s. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Special Olympics: Athlete Spotlight

Special Olympics powerlifters get ready for competition

Thumbnail for the video titled "Special Olympics powerlifters get ready for competition"

Special Olympics Cross Country Skiing

Thumbnail for the video titled "Special Olympics Cross Country Skiing"

Special Olympics Basketball

Thumbnail for the video titled "Special Olympics Basketball"

Special Olympics Michigan Area 36 2020 U.P. Winter Games

Thumbnail for the video titled "Special Olympics Michigan Area 36 2020 U.P. Winter Games"

Special Olympics: Downhill Ski

Thumbnail for the video titled "Special Olympics: Downhill Ski"

Special Olympics Figure Skating

Thumbnail for the video titled "Special Olympics Figure Skating"

Polar Plunge for Special Olympics

Thumbnail for the video titled "Polar Plunge for Special Olympics"

Latest News Video

LOCAL 3 SUNDAY'S WEATHER FORECAST 1/26/2020

Thumbnail for the video titled "LOCAL 3 SUNDAY'S WEATHER FORECAST 1/26/2020"

LOCAL 3 SATURDAY'S WEATHER FORECAST 1/25/2020

Thumbnail for the video titled "LOCAL 3 SATURDAY'S WEATHER FORECAST 1/25/2020"

GAME OF THE WEEK: Prophet comes up big as Westwood top Negaunee

Thumbnail for the video titled "GAME OF THE WEEK: Prophet comes up big as Westwood top Negaunee"

Girls HS Basketball: Escanaba tops Broncos, Rapid River edges Mustangs

Thumbnail for the video titled "Girls HS Basketball: Escanaba tops Broncos, Rapid River edges Mustangs"

LOCAL 3 FRIDAY OVERNIGHT WEATHER FORECAST 1/24/2020

Thumbnail for the video titled "LOCAL 3 FRIDAY OVERNIGHT WEATHER FORECAST 1/24/2020"

Nurse Navigator

Thumbnail for the video titled "Nurse Navigator"