Hope for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

10 Oct 2017. NUS pharmaceutical scientists have discovered that a naturally-derived compound is a potential drug candidate for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a type of lung inflammatory disease which is becoming more common. It is associated with a high mortality rate. This is a progressive disease which gets worse with time if not treated properly.  However, there is currently a lack of an effective anti-inflammatory agent which can halt the progression of this disease. Prof LIN Haishu and his team from the Department of Pharmacy, NUS, together with researchers from the Imperial College London, UK, have identified a promising grape polyphenol, known as isorhapontigenin, which can suppress lung inflammation caused by COPD. Also, this compound can be easily absorbed when taken orally. 

Previous studies have shown that resveratrol, a molecule commonly found in red wine, displays anti-inflammatory activity but it is not suitable as a therapeutic agent due to its poor potency and pharmacokinetics. Other similar molecules which are closely associated with resveratrol have been shown to have better pharmacological properties. Prof Lin and his Ph.D. student, YEO Chao Ming Samuel who has graduated recently, used a variety of molecular and analytical techniques to investigate the medicinal properties of several of these naturally-derived compounds. They identified isorhapontigenin as a promising candidate with the potential to be developed into a drug to treat COPD.

Prof Lin commented, “Corticosteroids, which are commonly used for reducing inflammation, are not effective in COPD patients. This compound, isorhapontigenin, uses a biological pathway that is different from corticosteroids to inhibit the release of inflammatory mediators in the body to tackle lung inflammation caused by COPD.”

Moving ahead, the team plans to further evaluate the therapeutic potential of isorhapontigenin using in vivo studies.


Schematic summarising the effects of isorhapontigenin on intracellular inflammatory pathways. [Image credit: Yeo Chao Ming Samuel]



Polyphenols of various chemical structures found in grapes can have anti-inflammatory activity but it is challenging to find one that is effective as a drug. Prof Lin and co-workers have successfully identified a polyphenol that can potentially be developed into a drug for lung inflammation caused by COPD. [Image credit: Pixabay]



Yeo SCM; Fenwick PS; Barnes PJ; Lin HS*; Donnelly LE*, "Isorhapontigenin, a bioavailable dietary polyphenol, suppresses airway epithelial cell inflammation through a corticosteroid-independent mechanism" BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHARMACOLOGY Volume: 174 Issue: 13 Pages: 2043-2059 DOI: 10.1111/bph.13803 Published:  2017 (selected as Editor’s choice).