Learn about cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects the lungs, pancreas, and other organs, and how to treat and live with this chronic disease.
CF is a rare genetic disease found in about 30,000 people in the U.S. If you have CF or are considering testing for it, knowing about the role of genetics in CF can help you make informed decisions about your health care.
If you or your child has just been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, or your doctor has recommended testing for CF, you may have many questions.
Diagnosing CF is a multistep process. A complete diagnostic evaluation should include a newborn screening, a sweat chloride test, a genetic or carrier test, and a clinical evaluation at a CF Foundation-accredited care center.
Raising a child with cystic fibrosis can bring up many questions because CF affects many aspects of your child’s life. Here you’ll find resources to help you manage your child’s daily needs and find the best possible CF care.
Living with cystic fibrosis comes with many challenges, including medical, social, and financial. By learning more about how you can manage your disease every day, you can ultimately help find a balance between your busy lifestyle and your CF care.
People with CF are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. As an adult with CF, you may reach key milestones you might not have considered. Planning for these life events requires careful thought as you make decisions that may impact your life.
People with cystic fibrosis are living longer and more fulfilling lives, thanks in part to specialized CF care and a range of treatment options.
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation-accredited care centers provide expert care and specialized disease management to people living with cystic fibrosis.
We provide funding for and accredit more than 120 care centers and 53 affiliate programs nationwide. The high quality of specialized care available throughout the care center network has led to the improved length and quality of life for people with CF.
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation provides standard care guidelines based on the latest research, medical evidence, and consultation with experts on best practices.
As a clinician, you’re critical in helping people with CF maintain their quality of life. We’re committed to helping you partner with patients and their families by providing resources you can use to improve and continue to provide high-quality care.
As part of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's mission to help improve the lives of people living with cystic fibrosis, the PSDC initiative taps the CF community to inform key efforts to support the management of daily care.
Your cystic fibrosis care team includes a group of CF health care professionals who partner with you to provide specialized, comprehensive CF care.
Many cystic fibrosis patients and families face complicated issues related to getting the care they need. But CF Foundation Compass makes sure that no one has to do it alone.
For many people with cystic fibrosis, dealing with insurance is as much a part of living with the disease as nebulizers and vests. Many people with CF and their families face issues related to getting the care they need, but no one has to do it alone.
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is the world’s leader in the search for a cure for CF and supports a broad range of research initiatives to tackle the disease from all angles.
The CF Foundation offers a number of resources for learning about clinical trials and treatments that are being developed to improve the treatment of cystic fibrosis.
Our understanding of CF continues to evolve as scientists study what causes the disease and how it affects the body. These insights drive the development of new and better treatments and bring us one step closer to a cure.
Researchers, supported by the CF Foundation, have made tremendous advances to improve the health and quality of life of people with CF. We are committed to providing the tools and resources you need to continuously build upon this work.
Cystic fibrosis occurs when the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) protein is either not made correctly, or not made at all. By understanding how the protein is made, scientists have been able to develop treatments that target the protein and restore its function.
The cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) protein helps to maintain the balance of salt and water on many surfaces in the body, such as the surface of the lung. When the protein is not working correctly, chloride -- a component of salt -- becomes trapped in cells. Without the proper movement of chloride, water
cannot hydrate the cellular surface. This leads the mucus covering the cells to become thick and sticky, causing many of the symptoms associated with cystic fibrosis.
To understand how mutations in the CFTR gene cause the protein to become dysfunctional, it is important to understand how the protein is normally made, and how it helps to move water and chloride to the cell surface.
Proteins are tiny machines that do specific jobs within a cell. The instructions for building each protein are encoded in DNA. Proteins are assembled from building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids. All proteins are made up of chains of these amino acids connected together in different orders, like different words that are written using the same 26 letters of the alphabet. The DNA instructions tell the cell which amino acid to use at each position in the chain to make a specific protein.
The CFTR protein is made up of 1,480 amino acids. Once the CFTR protein chain is made, it is folded into a specific 3-D shape. The CFTR protein is shaped like a tube that goes through the membrane surrounding the cell, like a straw goes through the plastic top on a cup.
The CFTR protein is a particular type of protein called an ion channel. An ion channel moves atoms or molecules that have an electrical charge from inside the cell to outside, or from outside the cell to inside. In the lung, the CFTR ion channel moves chloride ions from inside the cell to outside the cell. To get out of the cell, the chloride ions move through the center of the tube formed by the CFTR protein.
Once the chloride ions are outside the cell, they attract a layer of water. This water layer is important because it allows tiny hairs on the surface of the lung cells, called cilia, to sweep back and forth. This sweeping motion moves mucus up and out of the airways.
In people with CF, mutations in the CFTR gene can cause the following problems with the CFTR protein:
When any of these problems occur, the chloride ions are trapped inside the cell, and water is no longer attracted to the space outside the cell. When there is less water outside the cells, the mucus in the airways becomes dehydrated and thickens, causing it to flatten the cilia. The cilia can't sweep properly when thick, sticky mucus weighs them down.
Because the cilia can't move properly, mucus gets stuck in the airways, making it difficult to breathe. In addition, germs caught in the mucus are no longer expelled from the airway, allowing them to multiply and cause infections. Thick mucus in the lungs and frequent airway infections are some of the most common problems people with CF face.
Researchers are still trying to learn more about the structure of the CFTR protein so that they can find new and better ways to help improve the function of the protein in people with CF.
Because the 3-D shape of CFTR is so complex, it was not until early 2017 that the first high-resolution pictures were developed. These pictures have given researchers important clues about where drugs bind the protein, how they affect its function, and how to develop new CF therapies. In the future, pictures showing the protein in an “open” position, where salt can move through, will be even more helpful to researchers developing new CF therapies.
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