JAN 02, 2017 9:20 AM PST

Sugar Molecule Demonstrated to Halt Emphysema Progression

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for diseaes of the lungs and airways, and includes emphysema, a disease that affects over 30 million people in the United States alone, and is the fourth leading cause of death in the world. Researchers working in collaboration at RIKEN-Max Planck Joint Research Center for Systems Chemical Biology and several other institutes have found that a specific type of sugar molecule reduced the inflammatory response and progression of emphysema. According to the leader of the team that performed the work, Naoyuki Taniguchi, this discovery may open up the possibility of creating of drugs based on these biological sugar molecules in order to treat diseases like COPD. The findings were published in the American Journal of Physiology, Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology. In the following video, learn more about emphysema.

Keratan sulfate is in a class of sugar or saccharide molecules called glycans. It resides in the small airways of the lung. The researchers determined that levels of the sugar are reduced in mice exposed to cigarette smoke. The researchers speculated that the alteration could be linked to damage in the lung caused by smoking. Taniguchi explained, "We are not absolutely sure of the mechanism through which smoking leads to a reduction in keratan sulfate, but felt that clearly the reduction is important in thinking about glycan-based strategies for combating emphysema and COPD."

To investigate whether keratan sulfate could play a protective role in COPD, the scientists engineered a molecule from repeated disaccharide units of keratan sulfate, termeed L4. The L4 was applied to two mouse models of emphysema, one in which the enzyme elastase is the cause, while the other modeled emphysema caused by smoking.

In that smoking model, L4 treatment was able to prevent destruction of the small air sacs in lungs that function to exchange gases, the alveoli. Additionally, L4 treatment reduced the penetration of neutrophils, a kind of white blood cell that indicates inflammation.  There was also a reduction in inflammatory cytokine and tissue-degrading enzyme levels. While L4 was demonstrated to inhibit the enzymes, L4 did not appear to reduce the production of cytokines or reactive oxygen species directly. As such, the investigators concluded that the effect was occurring indirectly, through mechanisms likely involving neutrophils.

"We found that L4 was as effective as dexamethasone in reducing neutrophil infiltration. This is very exciting, because dexamethasone, the treatment currently used for COPD, is a steroid medication that can have serious side effects and can in some cases make the outcome worse,” Taniguchi expained. “It will be exciting if we can show that L4--a sugar molecule which we found had no adverse effects in the mice even at high doses--can be used as a treatment for this condition, which exerts a tremendous health burden."

Taniguchi noted that more work lies ahead. "We plan now to try to determine exactly how L4 blocks neutrophil migration, by finding a target receptor protein, and how L4 can suppress inflammation in vivo, as this could give us important insights into the mechanism of COPD progression and how it can be halted."

 

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via RIKEN, COPD Foundation, American Journal of Physiology, Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAY 31, 2021
Microbiology
How a Retrovirus Can Turn Infectious
MAY 31, 2021
How a Retrovirus Can Turn Infectious
This image by Martin Obr, PhD of IST Austria shows a structure called a capsid that shields viral genetic material and h ...
JUN 06, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
How Autism-Associated Mutations in One Gene Impact the Brain
JUN 06, 2021
How Autism-Associated Mutations in One Gene Impact the Brain
Autism spectrum disorder is complex; it presents differently in different patients and may be influenced by many factors ...
JUN 07, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Tumor Growth in NF1 Kids May Begin When Optic Nerve Fires
JUN 07, 2021
Tumor Growth in NF1 Kids May Begin When Optic Nerve Fires
Young children who are born with neurofibromatosis type 1 are at heightened risk of having vision problems because they ...
JUN 20, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Revealing Epigenetic Causes of Type 1 Diabetes
JUN 20, 2021
Revealing Epigenetic Causes of Type 1 Diabetes
Our bodies have to regulate the level of glucose, or sugar, in the blood. The hormone insulin, produced by beta cells in ...
JUL 05, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Genetics May Help Us Learn Who is at Risk From a Folate Deficiency
JUL 05, 2021
Genetics May Help Us Learn Who is at Risk From a Folate Deficiency
Folate is necessary for a healthy pregnancy; low folate levels can lead to neural tube defects. A lack of folate, a nutr ...
JUL 17, 2021
Microbiology
Fungi Can be a Healthy or Destructive Part of the Gut Microbiome
JUL 17, 2021
Fungi Can be a Healthy or Destructive Part of the Gut Microbiome
Scientists have been revealing the importance of gut bacteria; the huge numbers of bacterial species in our gastrointest ...
Loading Comments...