A new compound developed by scientists may prevent asthma by targeting its causative mechanisms rather than just treating the symptoms.
The drug, originally developed by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) to treat leukaemia, is able to activate a protein that is suppressed during asthma. It could enable doctors to treat the causes, not just the symptoms.
The research centres on the role played by two proteins in the lungs in causing asthma attacks. When they come into contact with the common cold virus and dust mites, the two main asthma triggers, they work together to produce a series of events that cause an attack, reports the journal Nature Medicine.
"Asthma is one of the major diseases of the developed world. It's very rare to find a compound that can reverse the symptoms of asthma," Anthony Don from UNSW, who started working on the compound in the treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia, was quoted as saying in a university statement.
"The important thing with this compound is that it's not just alleviating the symptoms, it's hitting at an underlying disease mechanism," says Don, a team leader at UNSW's Lowy Cancer Research Centre.
Jonathan Morris, associate professor from the UNSW School of Chemistry, synthesised the compound.
The development is also significant because asthma attacks are currently treated similarly regardless of whether they are caused by viruses or allergens, but virus-induced effects are much less responsive to current therapies.
The compound could also be used in the treatment of other inflammatory diseases.