A chemical found in certain types of vegetables displayed anti-tissue scarring activity in laboratory and mice lung-tissue experiments, a study reports.
The results suggested that the chemical, sulforaphane, could be used to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF, researchers said.
An article about the study, “Sulforaphane attenuates pulmonary fibrosis by inhibiting the epithelial-mesenchymal transition,” appeared in the journal BMC Pharmacology & Toxicology.
Patients with IPF, a progressive and chronic lung disease, have high levels of cells known as fibroblasts and myofibroblasts that can lead to lung tissue scarring — or fibrosis — and respiratory failure.
Epithelial cells in the lung can transition into fibroblasts or myofibroblasts through a process known as epithelial-mesenchymal transition, or EMT. This means that targeting EMT could be a way to treat IPF.
Sulphoraphane is found in cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and bok choy. The chemical can regulate signaling pathways associated with EMT, cancer studies have shown. In addition, research has demonstrated that it has anti-fibrotic activity in the liver.
A team of researchers wanted to know if sulphoraphane could also counter fibrosis in the lungs. They used a molecule called TGF-β1 to trigger fibrosis in cells in a laboratory, and a drug called bleomycin to create a mouse model of fibrosis.
A key finding was that sulphoraphane reversed the changes that had led to fibrosis in the laboratory cells. The evidence was that a marker of normal epithelial cells — E-cadherin — increased after treatment with sulphoraphane.
Importantly, it reduced levels of proteins associated with fibrosis, including fibronectin, collagen I, collagen IV, and α-SMA.
Sulphoraphane also decreased fibrosis in the lungs of the mouse model by lowering levels of fibronectin, TGF-β1, and collagen I there.
Together, the results indicated that sulphoraphane helps prevent EMT and maintains epithelial lung cells in their original condition, reducing the potential for fibrosis development.
Sulphoraphane “showed a significant anti-fibrotic effect in TGF-β-treated cell lines and BLM [bleomycin]-induced fibrosis in mice,” the team wrote. “These findings showed that SFN [sulphoraphane] has anti-fibrotic activity that may be considered in the treatment of IPF.”