New treatment for a root cause of asthma proves promising in mice tests
Asthma is an incredibly common disease that’s usually managed by treating the symptoms. But new research shows a potential way to target a root cause of the disease, with a molecule preventing structural changes in the airways of asthmatic mice and all but eliminating their symptoms in weeks.
Asthma is triggered by inhaled allergens like dust mites, which can cause inflammatory reactions that constrict the airways and impair a person’s breathing. These acute symptoms can be managed with inhaled relievers and corticosteroid drugs, but longer term issues can arise from a process called airway remodeling, for which there are no treatment options.
During the reaction to the allergens, stem cells known as pericytes move to the surface of the airways, where they begin to develop into other cells that over time make the airways thicker. That further restricts a person’s breathing and can lead to chronic symptoms like shortness of breath and wheezing.
In a new study, researchers at Aston University and Imperial College London have demonstrated a molecule that may prevent this airway remodeling. Known as LIT-927, the molecule works by blocking the signal from a protein called CXCL12, which is what triggers pericytes to migrate to the airway walls.
In tests in asthmatic mice, the researchers found that the animals’ symptoms essentially disappeared after two weeks of treatment with LIT-927. The walls of their airways were also much thinner than in untreated mice.
As promising as the breakthrough sounds, there’s still plenty more work to be done before this could be tested in humans. Next the team plans to investigate how much of the drug to administer and at what point in the disease progression it works best.
“By targeting the changes in the airway directly, we hope this approach could eventually offer a more permanent and effective treatment than those already available, particularly for severe asthmatics who don’t respond to steroids,” said Dr. Jill Johnson, lead researcher on the study. “However, our work is still at an early stage and further research is needed before we can begin to test this in people.”
The research was published in the journal Respiratory Research.