In a new study of mice, scientist found that an experimental drug may protect the animals from lung damage caused by cigarettes, raising hope for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
Researchers found the chemical CDDO-Im helped activate a master gene called Nrf2 that boosts the lung’s ability to fight off chronic pulmonary disease.
People with COPD suffer from crippling airflow obstruction; a COPD diagnosis, which is evolving and likely is underreported, historically has included labels such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthmatic bronchitis. COPD is the fourth-leading killer in the United States.
Many experts say that smoking and its residual effects cause about 90% of COPD deaths. However, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that nearly 30% of COPD and adult asthma is caused by occupational exposure.
“COPD is the 4th-largest killer, affecting as many as 210 million people worldwide, with no effective drugs, said lead author of the study, Shyam Biswal of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Maryland.
Our previous studies found a defect in Nrf2 – a master regulator of antioxidant and detoxifying pathways – in the lungs of COPD patients that may be involved in the severity of this disease, explained Biswal.
Therapies targeting the pathway need to be developed and then tested on patients,” said Biswal.
For the study, researchers studied the drug compound CDDO-Im, which induces the Nrf2 gene to activate an array of antioxidant genes. “This response detoxifies the damaging molecules that cause lung damage,” he said.
For six months mice were exposed to tobacco smoke to imitate the lung damage seen in emphysema patients.
Researchers found that mice given the drug were protected against lung damage and had significant heart function improvement compared to mice who were untreated.
Reata Pharmaceuticals Inc, is studying CDDO-Me, a drug in the same class, as a potential lung cancer treatment under the name RTA-402.
“In the future CDD0-Me may be used in trials for COPD,” Biswal said.
The study is published in full online in the December 22 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. #