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New treatment hope for asthma

Thursday August 20th 2020

A class of drugs has been identified that could lead to new treatments for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it was revealed last night (19 August 2020).

An international team of scientists, led by the University of Glasgow, say their breakthrough findings, published in Science Translational Medicine, reversed asthma symptoms in animal models.

They also found that when those same drugs were applied to lung samples, which had obtained from human donors, there were similar effects to those seen in the animal models.

They hope these combined findings offer new hope for new medicines to treat human inflammatory lung disease.

The researchers centred on the activation of the free fatty acid receptor 4 (FFA4). This protein is found in the gut and pancreas where it is activated by dietary fats, including omega 3. Once activated, FFA4 helps to control levels of glucose in the blood.

The Glasgow team found FFA4 is also present in the human lung. When they designed a new class of drugs that activate protein in the lung, found that the muscle surrounding the airways relaxes allowing more air to enter the lung.

Activators of FFA4 also reduced inflammation caused by exposure of mice to pollution, cigarette smoke and allergens like house dust mite that cause asthma.

Professor Andrew Tobin, professor of molecular pharmacology at the University of Glasgow, said: “It was indeed a surprise to find that by targeting a protein that up to now has been thought of as being activated by fish oils in our diet we were able to relax airway muscle and prevent inflammation. We are optimistic that we can extend our findings and develop a new drug treatment of asthma and COPD.”

Professor Christopher Brightling, an author on the paper from the University of Leicester and a consultant of respiratory medicine, added: “By the identification of this new mechanism we offer the hope for new effective medicines for those patients that are not responsive to our current treatments.”

The work was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Prihandoko R, Alvarez-Curto E, Tyas MR et al. Pathophysiological regulation of lung function by the free fatty acid receptor FFA4. Science Translational Medicine 19 August 2020.

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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