GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- 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 chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, acute respiratory distress syndrome, cystic fibrosis 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 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 lung tissues typically observed in COPD patients.
Lilibeth Salvador, a researcher in Luesch's Marine Natural Products lab, led the investigation published Feb. 14 in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. The study revealed that the blue-green algae prevented elastase-driven changes in bronchial connective tissue cells. 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.