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Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Combat COPD?

This past January, researchers from the University of Rochester were awarded $1.6 million to embark on a four year series of studies involving a group of compounds derived from omega-3 fatty acids and their ability to combat inflammation caused by cigarette smoking, which can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The research team will use their early data to illustrate that compounds, called pro-resolving lipid mediators, have anti-inflammatory effects on human lung cells and can stop cigarette smoke-induced lung damage that creates and exacerbates the disease. The team believes that the studies will showcase the compound’s ability to 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,” said Richard P. Phipps, Ph.D., research team leader and professor of Environmental Medicine and Director of the Lung Biology and Disease Program at the University of Rochester School of Medicine.

The research team explained that while current therapies, such as bronchodilators and steroids, can relieve symptoms, they are not cures. The team’s early data focuses solely on pro-resolving lipid mediators’ effect on the lungs. In previous studies, these compounds have shown the ability to turn off pro-inflammatory signals and promote the destruction of inflammatory cells that take over lung tissue following smoking.

Following the studies, researchers say they hope to develop a supplement, “likely from fish or certain plants like algae, which is highly enriched in pro-resolving mediators”.

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