Researchers in Baltimore have identified new class of compounds that aids in the relaxation of airway muscles and may provide relief from shortness of breath for patients with COPD and asthma.
"We have identified compounds that are more potent than our previously identified set of compounds, paving the way for development of bronchodilators for treating asthma and COPD," said study author Kathryn Robinett, pulmonary and critical care fellow at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
"These compounds represent a new class of bronchodilator that work through an entirely different mechanism than beta-agonists like albuterol, salmeterol and formoterol," added Robinett.
For their study, the researchers examined compounds known to be bitter suggesting they may be effective in relaxing these airway muscles. Once potential compounds were identified, the researchers administered these compounds to mouse airways to examine their effects.
They found that bitter compounds were at least as effective as beta-agonists in relaxing smooth airway muscle. Relaxation of active tension in these muscles in mice approached 100 percent for most compounds, compared to 30 percent for the beta-agonist isoproterenol. In a more limited number of studies in human airways, they continue to find bitter compounds to be somewhat more effective than beta-agonists. More importantly, they appear to work in different ways inside the cell, so the two classes of drugs can work together to treat moderate to severe obstructive lung disease.
"These findings continue to support data that bitter taste receptor agonists could be the next major class of therapeutics in treating asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," said Robinett.
Robinett said this study is just the first step in a much larger task: identifying the compounds, which offer optimal results for COPD and asthmatic patients.
The study will be presented at the ATS 2011 International Conference in Denver.