A recent study assessed the impact of exercise on the cytokine levels and epigenetic signals in patients experiencing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been identified as a major contributor to global mortality. The World Health Organization predicts that COPD will become the 3rd leading cause of death by 2030. The disease is particularly dangerous due to its long-term impact on the individual. COPD is described as a limitation of airflow within the respiratory system. It is often a result of smoking or exposure to air pollution. Cigarette smoking induces an immune response which causes inflammation. This inflammation is a result of epigenetic regulation of genes. Research published in Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology studied the impact of the environmental factor of exercise, on inflammatory and epigenetic markers in COPD patients.

An exercise regime of 24 90-minute sessions conducted 3 times a week was assigned to 10 patients from a pulmonary rehabilitation program. Blood samples were collected at several time points throughout the study; baseline, immediately following the first exercise session, prior to commencing the 24th session, and at completion of the 24th session. The blood samples were tested for parameters including DNA methylation levels, histone H4 acetylation levels, protein concentration and cytokine levels. A questionnaire was completed by the participants to gauge an understanding of their quality of life.

Results indicated that DNA hypomethylation occurred following the first session with respect to DNA methylation levels at baseline. Global histone H4 acetylation levels remained constant across all the time points. Initially, cytokine levels remained unchanged following the first exercise session. Eventually, there was a rise in interleukin 6 and a decline in transforming growth factor-beta. These trends were recorded after the final session in comparison with the levels recorded prior to the final session. The results suggest that gene expression plays an important role in exercise-induced regulation of inflammatory responses in COPD patients.

This research study provides valuable information towards treatment and therapeutic solutions for COPD patients. Effective exercise programs designed specifically for COPD patients will improve the overall quality of patients while presenting a convenient method of recovery or prevention which avoids potential adverse effects of medications, and the emotional and physical difficulties of hospitalizations. Exercise programs have the potential to lower healthcare costs.


Written By: Shrishti Ahuja, BSc

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