Brown Seaweed Extract as a New Therapeutic Approach to Pulmonary Hypertension

News 3-2019 EN

Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) is a severe condition of the lungs and the heart, which cannot be cured.

While medication can alleviate the symptoms of those affected, PH is generally a disease with a progressive and life-threatening course, ultimately requiring lung transplantation. “Pulmonary hypertension is characterized by pathologically elevated blood pressure in the pulmonary circulation, resulting in shortness of breath and reduced physical performance,” explains the Giessen-based lung researcher Prof. Dr. Ralph Schermuly, Department of Internal Medicine at Giessen University (JLU). Together with his team, he researches into new therapies for PH at the German Center for Lung Research (DZL, headquartered at the JLU). The fateful circle of this condition in brief:

In order for the lungs to be well supplied with blood, the right heart must work very hard to pump blood; in the long term, this leads to an increased muscle mass of the right heart and eventually causes the heart muscle to fail.

The Giessen-based lung researchers have now developed a new therapeutic approach to PH. In a study published in the “American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine” (AJRCCM), they demonstrated improvements of experimental pulmonary hypertension through the administration of fucoidan, an extract obtained from brown seaweed. Fucoidans are a group of sulfated polysaccharides with a fucose backbone, which are mostly found in brown seaweed.

In Japan and in other Asian countries, fucoidan has been used as a natural remedy with anti-inflammatory properties, anti-tumor effects, and characteristics protecting the blood vessels for centuries.

PH symptoms were mitigated significantly during the study through the administration of fucoidan, while pulmonary vascular remodeling was also prevented. Scientist Dr. Tatyana Novoyatleva from the Universities of Giessen and Marburg Lung Center (UGMLC) also explained the mechanism of action: Fucoidan inhibits P-selectin, a protein that is important for immune reaction.

The scientists will continue to pursue their promising therapeutic approach to investigate the potential use of fucoidan in patients suffering from PH.