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Broccoli Compound May Help COPD Patients
Date:9/12/2008

Sulphoraphane boosts lungs' antioxidant activity, researchers explain

FRIDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) could one day benefit from an antioxidant compound in broccoli, researchers report.

COPD is the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, affecting more than 16 million people, and is often the result of long-term smoking. There is no cure for this deadly disease, and current drugs do not slow its progression.

"In COPD, there is critical loss of antioxidant systems, which protect against oxidative stress and inflammation," explained lead researcher Shyam Biswal, an associate professor in the department of environmental health sciences and the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in Baltimore.

"Even though there is a loss of this system, you can substantially restore it with an activator for this pathway," Biswal said. A compound in broccoli called sulforaphane has been shown effective in restoring antioxidant gene activity. "So this could be a new way of doing therapy," Biswal theorized.

The study is published Sept. 15 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

One of the things that was not understood before this work was why COPD patients carry a lot of oxidative stress, Biswal said. "Now we know the defense system in the lungs is getting lost -- but there is a hope that you can turn it on," he said. "Now that we know the target, we have to develop a therapy and see how effective it is."

Biswal noted that the big problem in COPD is not repairing the damage done to the lungs but rather preventing bacterial infection. "Most COPD patients manifest infection in the lungs and they die from that," he said.

What the researchers found is that a gene called NRF2 (nuclear factor erythroid-derived 2-related factor 2) works as a mas
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