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10/27/2016 12:01

Ectoine reduces chronic lung inflammation: A new therapeutic approach against COPD

Christiane Klasen Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Leibniz-Institut für umweltmedizinische Forschung - IUF

    Researchers at the IUF – Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine demonstrate for the first time the efficacy of the natural compound ectoine against chronic lung inflammation in an inhalation study with female volunteers from the industrial Ruhr region.

    Düsseldorf, 27/10/2016. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to world health organization (WHO), is currently the third leading cause of death. The disease is caused by long-term inhalation of pollutants like cigarette smoke and particulate matter. The chronic inflammatory reaction caused by these hazardous substances is responsible for induction and progression of the disease. Therefore, the successful therapy of this kind of airway inflammation is considered as the key approach for the treatment of COPD. As therapy of COPD is still difficult, scientists and physicians are seeking for new approaches to treat this disease.

    The impact of natural substances of the group of extremolytes on adverse effects of environmental particles on the airways has been investigated at the IUF – Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine for years. “In several pre-clinical studies we were able to show that these substances can prevent lung inflammation induced by inhaled particles as well as contribute to a fast subsiding of the airway inflammation”, reports PD Dr. Klaus Unfried, principal investigator of the studies. “In this context, we gained important insights in the molecular events responsible for adverse health effects induced by inhaled particles in the airways.”

    Extremolytes are natural substances produced by microorganisms (e.g. bacteria), which live under extreme conditions like heat, cold, drought, or high salt concentrations. The accumulation of extremolytes as protection molecules stabilizes the biological structures of the microorganisms and allows surviving under this environmental stress conditions. The research has shown that certain extremolytes significantly reduce cellular stress reactions induced by inhaled particles in the lung. The extremolyte ectoine isolated from bacteria living under high salt conditions has been demonstrated to be particularly effective in these investigations.

    In a current study of IUF the use of ectoine as an inhalation solution in humans was tested for the first time (Int J Chronic Obstr Pulm Dis 11(1): 2573-2583, 2016. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S115061). The study was conducted together with the university hospital in Düsseldorf and the bitop AG. Female volunteers from the industrial Ruhr region with pollution-induced non-pathologically elevated inflammatory symptoms of the lung were asked to inhale ectoine regularly. The effects of ectoine inhalation were compared to those of inhaled physiological saline. The treatment with the natural substance ectoine led to a significant reduction of inflammatory cells in the airways and to an improvement of typical signs of chronic lung inflammation. The treatment was very well tolerated by all volunteers. No undesirable side effects were observed.

    Ectoine already has several applications in medical devices for the skin, the eye, and the nasal mucosa; organs which are particularly exposed to environmental stress. The recent study demonstrates that an inhalation solution containing the natural substance ectoine applied to the human airways successfully reduces adverse health effects of inhaled particles and counteracts chronic lung inflammation. “As this kind of inflammation is the main cause of the induction and persistence of COPD, we suppose that ectoine has a big potential for the prevention and treatment of this disease”, explains Prof. Jean Krutmann, director of IUF.

    547 words, 3768 characters

    Unfried K, Krämer U, Sydlik U, Autengruber A, Bilstein A, Stolz S, Marini A, Schikowski T, Keymel S, Krutmann J: Reduction of neutrophilic lung inflammation by inhalation of the compatible solute ectoine: a randomized trial with elderly individuals. Int J Chronic Obstr Pulm Dis 11(1): 2573-2583, 2016. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S115061

    About the IUF
    The IUF – Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine investigates the molecular mechanisms through which particles, radiation and environmental chemicals harm human health. The main working areas are environmentally induced aging of the cardiovascular system and the skin as well as disturbances of the nervous and immune system. Through development of novel model systems the IUF contributes to the improvement of risk assessment and the development of novel strategies for the prevention / therapy of environmentally induced health damage.

    More information:
    The IUF is part of the Leibniz Association:

    About bitop AG
    bitop AG is a fast growing company based in Witten, Germany. Since the company was founded in 1993, it focuses on the development, manufacture and marketing of medical devices and high quality active ingredients for cosmetics. The technological base of bitop AG’s business are substances from the class of extremolytes, in particular the compound Ectoin®. In both the medical and cosmetics segments, bitop AG is positioned as a provider of innovative and high quality products whose safety and effectiveness is scientifically demonstrated by elaborate experiments and test systems. In the interest of ensuring the highest quality standards, bitop AG operates a certified quality management system according to DIN EN 13485.

    More information:

    Press contact
    Christiane Klasen
    IUF – Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine
    Auf’m Hennekamp 50
    40225 Düsseldorf
    Phone: +49 (0)211 3389 216

    Scientific contact
    PD Dr. Klaus Unfried
    Phone: +49 (0)211 3389 362


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    Biology, Medicine, Nutrition / healthcare / nursing
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