New inhaler protects lungs against effects of air pollution


The German pharmaceutical device company Bitop, in association with researchers at the IUF Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine, Düsseldorf, has developed an inhaler which may actively protect the lungs from the harmful effects of ultrafine particles. The key component of the formulation is the molecule ectoine, present in bacteria found in the Egyptian desert, where the compound stabilises water on cell surfaces as a defence mechanism against extreme heat and aridity.

When the formulation containing ectoine is delivered to the lungs, a layer of water forms on cell surfaces, forming a barrier which reduces the physical and chemical damage and inflammation associated with exposure to ultrafine particles.

The inhaler could be an extremely useful tool for treatment of COPD, asthma and other respiratory diseases, and also as a preventative in areas with particularly high levels of pollution, for example China, or for other at-risk groups – although the developers urge governments not to use the new inhaler as an ‘excuse’ to stop working on reducing particulate air pollution.

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