Omega-3 Fatty Acids can reduce the COPD Progression

COPD, which is most often caused by years of smoking, is characterized by inflammation and excessive mucus in the lungs that blocks airflow. Quitting can slow the progress of COPD, but it doesn’t halt the disease. Anti-inflammatory drugs are the most common treatment. however, they suppress the immune system, which can put people with COPD at risk for secondary infections.

The number of patients with COPD worldwide is increasing and there are no treatments to stop the disease from progressing. Current therapies, such as bronchodilators and steroids, can relieve symptoms but are not cures. Patients with COPD suffer greatly from symptoms of a cough, shortness of breath, infective exacerbations and even death. Thus, there is a great unmet need for new therapies.

Many studies have focused on the overall health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish like salmon and tuna, but few have zeroed in on their role in lung disease. Sime, Phipps and others have shown that when consumed, omega-3’s are broken down into multiple pro-resolving lipid mediators, which turn off pro-inflammatory signals and promote the destruction of inflammatory cells that take over lung tissue following smoking.

Compounds derived from omega-3 fatty acids – like those found in salmon – might be the key to helping the body combat lung infections. One of the compounds, called pro-resolving lipid mediators, have anti-inflammatory effects on human lung cells and can stop cigarette smoke-induced lung damage in models of the disease. It can be used to prevent inflammation and speed the repair of lung injury from short and long-term cigarette smoke exposure, as well as other forms of lung injury.

These exciting new compounds have the potential to be one of the first-ever disease-modifying therapies against smoking-induced inflammatory lung disease, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, the two conditions that characterize COPD.

Beyond patients with cigarette-induced COPD, a supplement could be used for the treatment of other inflammatory lung diseases, including biomass smoke-incited COPD. In the developing world, nearly 3 billion people cook food and heat their homes with traditional indoor cookstoves or open fires, which emit toxic smoke that also leads to COPD.

The goals of the new grant are to determine which pro-resolving lipid mediators are the most effective at dampening inflammation and the precise way in which they stamp it out in human lung cells and an experimental laboratory model of COPD.

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