By Uma Sajjan, MSc, PhD
Studies at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine and the Temple Lung Center are examining potential treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) based on the naturally occurring polyphenol quercetin.
COPD is the third-leading cause of death in the United States; at present, there is no cure. Current therapies include maintenance management with long-acting bronchodilators and a long-acting muscarinic antagonist, as well as corticosteroids and/or antibiotics to treat exacerbations and limit disease progression.
Oxidative stress and inflammation, induced by exposure to cigarette smoke or other environmental or occupational hazards, appear to be responsible for the development of COPD. Therefore, research at the Sajjan lab focuses on therapies aimed at decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation.
Quercetin, a natural polyphenol present in apples, broccoli and berries, has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Quercetin also possesses antiviral properties, interfering with viral replication. Our studies, using a preclinical mouse model, demonstrated that quercetin inhibits the development and progression of COPD and also inhibits persistent inflammation and progression of lung disease following experimental infection with rhinovirus. In COPD airway epithelial cell culture models, quercetin reduced the levels of secreted pro-inflammatory factors and inhibited rhinovirus replication and virus-induced oxidative stress, goblet cell metaplasia, and expression of pro-inflammatory factors. Our preliminary clinical trials also indicated that COPD patients safely tolerated quercetin supplementation up to 2000 mg/day.
Our research suggests that quercetin may be effective in the treatment and/or management of COPD. Based on these results, my lab, in collaboration with the Lung Center’s Dr. Nathaniel Marchetti and Dr. Gerard Criner, has received funding from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health to further examine the effects of quercetin in COPD patients. Stay tuned for information on upcoming clinical trials. ■