Component of red wine quells inflammation in chronic inflammatory lung disease (COPD)

A component of red wine, resveratrol, seems to damp down the inflammatory process in the progressive lung disease COPD, finds a small study in Thorax.

So effective was resveratrol in laboratory tests that the authors suggest that the compound could be developed to treat the disease.

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is irreversible and progressive. The lungs deteriorate, making it difficult, and eventually impossible, to breathe. Treatment is at best palliative. Smoking is the chief culprit.

The cells involved in the inflammatory process in COPD include macrophages. These cells produce powerful chemicals, such as interleukins, which stimulate the growth and activity of various other immune system cells. They also produce chemicals to prolong cell life, such as GM-CSF, and they generate free radicals in the process.

The researchers isolated macrophages from the lung fluid samples of 15 smokers and 15 patients with COPD, and ran two experiments. In one, the macrophages were artificially spurred into action by an interleukin or cigarette smoke; resveratrol was then added to the mix. In the other, resveratrol was added in the absence of artificial stimulation.

In the unstimulated samples, resveratrol almost completely eliminated the production of interleukin 8 by 94% in smokers’ macrophages and by 88% in COPD macrophages. The production of interleukin 8 was around five times as great in patients with COPD as it was in smokers. Resveratrol also cut the release of GM-CSF by 79% in smokers’ samples and by 76% in COPD cells.

In the stimulated samples, the compound more than halved the amount of interleukin produced and almost halved the amount of cell life enhancer.

Resveratrol is a polyphenol antioxidant found in the skins of red fruits, such as grapes, and has been credited with the much touted beneficial effects of red wine.

The authors conclude that resveratrol or related compounds may be more effective than corticosteroids for treating COPD. The issue remains as to how much of the resveratrol would reach the lung tissues, they say, but suggest that analogues would take care of this problem.

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