Now here’s a timely bit of good news from the folks at New Scientist considering recent developments with my mom. Seems researchers have identified the molecule in red wine that accounts for it’s beneficial health effects (when taken in moderation). The molecule is an antioxidant called resveratrol and early experiments seem to show it could help people with COPD:
The team isolated immune cells called macrophages from the lung fluid of 15 COPD patients, and 15 smokers who did not have the disease. The Imperial group believes these cells are responsible for causing the inflammation to cells in the lungs that over the long-term leads to the breakdown of lung tissue.
Macrophages are special “scavenger” white blood cells, which vacuum up foreign particles entering the body or dead cells. However, they can also release powerful molecules that fuel a strong inflammatory response.
When resveratrol was added to the macrophage samples, it almost completely eliminated the production of one such molecule called interleukin-8 (IL-8). This fell by 88 per cent in the COPD patients’ macrophages, and 94 per cent in the smokers’ macrophages.
“Interleukin-8 is a very powerful chemoattractant,” explains Donnelly. It recruits other white blood cells called neutrophils to the area. These cells release powerful enzymes that help to break down the lung in COPD, she says. It also attracts monocytes, which are precursor macrophages.
The production of IL-8 is five times higher in COPD sufferers’ than smokers’ macrophages. Smokers generally produce more than non-smokers.
Resveratrol also cut the release of another inflammatory molecule, GM-CSF, by 76 per cent in COPD cells and 79 per cent in smokers’ cells. This molecule helps keep neutrophils alive for longer in the lungs, says Donnelly.
The two molecules were also reduced by about half by the red wine ingredient even when the cells were stimulated with smoke.
The team is now working with industry to find a drug candidate based on resveratrol. “One of the problems is it is not terribly bioavailable,” says Donnelly. “So even if you drink lots of red wine, you are not going to get enough concentration to have an effect.”
So it sounds like using this as a means of treatment is still some ways off, but it provides hope for dealing with what will be a growing problem in the future.