Asthma could be a condition resigned to history, as scientists claim to have worked out how they can ‘switch off’ asthma attacks.
Scientists have been looking at proteins that can shut off the cells causing the inflammatory immune response that eventually leads to wheezing, shortness of breath and lung constriction.
Currently in the UK, 5.4 million people are being treated for asthma, and on average three people die every day from complications of the disease, a spokesperson from Asthma UK says: “Asthma is not just an excuse to skip P.E.”
The team, at John Hopkins University, say that patients with asthma have an over presence of one type of immune cell, the M2 macrophage, which is part of a control centre on the immune pathway.
In non-asthmatic people, this M2 is activated temporarily to help clean up inhaled allergens, but once these foreign bodies are broken down, the M2 deactivates again.
However in the asthmatic population, the M2 ‘switch’ is continually stuck in the ‘on’ position because other proteins that are meant to counteract the reaction are not controlling it.
This constant ‘on’ state means that the M2 is sending out chemical signals all over the body that calls in cells to cause inflammation, which leads to the symptoms associated with an asthma attack.
Not only is this problematic in the short-term but the secretions from the M2 fundamentally change the lung tissue over a period of time, leading to poorer lung function.
The team believe they have been able to isolate two proteins, GRB10 and p70S6K, which shut off the development of M2 when tested in the lungs of mice.
If clinical trials continue to prove successful, it is hoped in the future that replicas of these two proteins could be administered in an inhalable drug.