Marine compound discovery shows promise of improved drug treatment for COPD patients

February 28, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Pharmacy researchers at the University of Florida have isolated a new marine compound 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 Cetti Bay, Guam, by Hendrik Luesch, the Frank A. Duckworth eminent scholar chair in drug research and development. The new compound targets an enzyme overactive in , asthma, acute , 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," Luesch said.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 120,000 Americans each year, according to the . Current therapies alleviate symptoms of COPD, but do not slow disease progression. Only one drug, Sivelestat, targets the enzyme, called elastase, but its marginal effects are delaying further clinical approvals, Luesch said.

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

Lilibeth Salvador, a researcher in Luesch's Marine Natural Products lab, led the investigation published Feb. 14 in the . The study revealed that the blue-green algae prevented elastase-driven changes in bronchial . She is also presenting the findings at the college's 26th Annual Research Showcase on Thursday.

Salvador, who will earn her doctorate from the UF College of Pharmacy in May, uses a soccer analogy to describe how the compound may prove to be a more effective drug therapy.

"By inhibiting this enzyme, we prevent one of the key players in the initiation of COPD. So, we prevent the ball from being relayed on to other players involved in the progression of the disease," she said.

investigated by the Luesch lab 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 a host of other diseases.

From his marine samples collected in the Atlantic side of the Florida Keys to as far away as Guam in the Pacific, Luesch has discovered dozens of new promising compounds. His lab has already chemically synthesized several of these natural products and designed and generated similar compounds with improved drug-like properties. Further research funding enables him to continue the drug development process. His early studies show these marine compounds have the right stuff to begin further clinical studies for drugs to treat colorectal, prostate and metastatic breast cancer, enhance bone regeneration and slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Explore further: Medicinal chemists modify sea bacteria byproduct for use as potential cancer drug

Related Stories

Medicinal chemists modify sea bacteria byproduct for use as potential cancer drug

August 31, 2011
University of Florida researchers have modified a toxic chemical produced by tiny marine microbes and successfully deployed it against laboratory models of colon cancer.

Reversing smoke-induced damage and disease in the lung

October 13, 2011
By studying mice exposed to tobacco smoke for a period of months, researchers have new insight into how emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) develops. In the October 14th issue of Cell they also report ...

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.