Molecule discovery could lead to better asthma drugs

A newly discovered molecule that stops asthma attacks has the potential to relieve nearly 19 million adults and 7 million children in the U.S. who suffer from the condition.

After observing the lungs and blood of people with mild and severe asthma, scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston found that immune cells called natural killer cells and type 2 innate lymphoid cells play a vital role in airway inflammation in patients with severe asthma.

Researchers found that a molecule called lipoxin A4 helps alleviate airway inflammation, which is common in patients with severe asthma. It helps natural killer cells to decrease inflammation by enabling cell death in immune cells called eosinophils. The molecule also discourages type 2 innate lymphoid cells from promoting inflammation by blocking the secretion of cell-signaling molecules called interleukin-13.

Dr. Bruce Levy, a physician in the pulmonary and critical care medicine division of BWH Department of Internal Medicine and senior author of the study, which is published in Science Translational Medicine, said the findings raise the question of whether a novel therapeutic to combat asthma could work.

"Right now there are two classes of therapies--symptom relief and a disease-control approach," Levy explained to FierceBiotechResearch. "We don't have this kind of approach right now," he said in reference to the dual pro-resolving and anti-inflammatory properties of lipoxin A4.

Lipoxin A4 essentially works by dampening pathways that cause inflammation while at the same time clearing away the cells that fuel inflammation.

Levy said he and his team are actively seeking a licensing agreement to further develop the molecule for new therapies. 

- read the press release
- check out the study abstract

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