Researchers revealed 8 potential treatment targets for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in Baoyuan decoction (BYD), a traditional Chinese medicine that has antiapoptotic and antifibrosis effects as well as immunostimulatory activity, as published in Phytochemical Analysis.

The researchers employed ultra-high performance liquid chromatography together with Orbitrap mass spectrometry and a network pharmacology analysis to reveal the treatment targets and the pathways of BYD to treat IPF.

“This study determined the efficacy of BYD against IPF and clarified its multiple-target and multiple-pathway mechanisms,” the authors wrote. “Furthermore, the study also provides a new method for exploring the chemical and pharmacological bases of other [traditional Chinese medicine].”

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BYD is currently used to treat respiratory and cardiovascular diseases due to its antiapoptotic, coagulation-regulating, fibrosis-improving, and antihypoxic effects. Its use in treating lung disease caused by a viral infection and its antifibrotic effects led to the research team’s interest in exploring the potential for BYD to be used in IPF.

After determining the potential treatment targets and pathways via network pharmacology, the binding between the active components and their targets was verified using molecular docking analysis. Finally, the pharmacological effects of BYD on IPF were confirmed in a series of in vitro experiments.

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Western blotting and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction results demonstrated that expression of collagen and alpha-smooth muscle actin, important indicators of IPF, were reduced after treatment with BYD compared with a control model. Furthermore, BYD treatment inhibited vascular endothelial growth factor A and its downstream PI3K/AKT signaling pathway, potentially further inhibiting IPF.

Additional potential targets affected by BYD include the mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway, epidermal growth factor receptor, and insulin-like growth factor, all of which have been shown to play important roles in IPF.

The researchers caution that the complexity of the targets and pathways involved means there is a significant need for further research with BYD along with in vivo experiments to better clarify the targets, their interactions, and possible synergistic effects of treatment in IPF. However, the study provides a theoretical basis from which to launch future studies and possible applications of this traditional Chinese medicine.


Zhang B, Gao D, Xu G, et al. Integrated multicomponent analysis based on UHPLC-Q-Exactive Orbitrap-MS and network pharmacology to elucidate the potential mechanism of Baoyuan decoction against idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Phytochem Anal. Published online April 9, 2022. doi:10.1002/pca.3120