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New Marine Compound May Improve Treatment of COPD

Researchers target overactive enzyme in lung diseases (Feb. 27)

Pharmacy researchers at the University of Florida have isolated a new marine compound that they believe may lead to improved drug therapies for pulmonary diseases by inhibiting their progression rather than managing their symptoms.

Known as symplostatin 5, the compound was extracted from blue-green algae collected in Guam. The new compound targets an enzyme (elastase) that is overactive in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, acute respiratory distress syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and other diseases.

“These compounds can potentially offer a new opportunity to treat COPD and related diseases in a different way and possibly more effectively,” said lead researcher Dr. Hendrik Luesch.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 120,000 Americans each year. Current therapies alleviate the symptoms of COPD but do not slow disease progression. Only one drug, sivelestat, targets elastase, but its clinical effects are marginal, Luesch said.

Elastase is an enzyme that breaks down a variety of proteins. In COPD, where there is excessive enzyme activity, protein breakdown contributes to lung damage and inflammation. The effects of elastase on these processes contribute to the irreversible destruction of lung tissues typically observed in COPD patients.

In the new research, published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, the blue-green algae prevented elastase-driven changes in bronchial connective-tissue cells.

The algae investigated by Luesch and his colleagues contain naturally occurring molecules essential for survival in a harsh marine environment. These ingredients are what Luesch believes will lead to a new source of drugs that he hopes to develop for improved treatments for patients suffering from COPD and other diseases.

Source: University of Florida; February 27, 2013.

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