Health Headlines: Zinc may stop, reverse progression of deadly lung disease

Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 6:27 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - New research shows a common mineral may stop, and even reverse a deadly lung disease.

More than 100,000 seniors suffer from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). There is no cure, but now, doctors are one step closer to stopping its progression and reversing it.

“Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a lung disease in which the lungs form scar tissue,” said Cedars-Sinai pulmonologist Paul Noble, M.D.

There is no known cure for IPF.

“They either get a lung transplant or succumb to the disease within five years. The prognosis is worse than many cancers,” Noble said.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai have now identified a root cause. They found that stem cells lining the air sacs in the lungs lose their ability to process zinc.

“Zinc is an essential mineral. It’s a nutrient that’s used for a lot of cellular processes,” Noble said.

Lungs are missing a protein called zinc transporter eight, or ZIP8, which draws zinc into the cell.

When researchers fed mice zinc supplements, their fibrosis improved. When they added a combination of NAD+ and Sirtuin 1 activators, all of which are supplements sold over the counter, the fibrosis improved, and even reversed.

“The idea of potentially improving lung function is something that really gets me out of bed in the morning,” Noble said.

Giving a breath of hope to thousands of people, Dr. Noble and his team hope to develop a clinical trial and are hopeful the treatment could not only help treat IPF, but could also be a treatment for long COVID and other respiratory illnesses.