Asthma affects more than 25 million people in the US, with around 60% of these cases resulting from allergies. Now, researchers have discovered a molecule that they say could prevent symptoms triggered by allergen-induced asthma.
The research team, including Minoru Fukuda, PhD, of the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in Orlando, FL, recently published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Asthma is a chronic disease that inflames and narrows the airways to and from the lungs. Asthmatics are often more sensitive to environmental allergens, or "triggers," such as pollen, dust, fumes and smoke.
Such exposure can prompt inflammation, airway constriction and mucus production, which can lead to wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) state that asthma prevalence has been increasing since the early 1980s. Death rates from the condition have increased more than 50% from this period, with death rates among children under 19 years old increasing by almost 80%.
Researchers say they have discovered a molecule that could treat symptoms of allergen-induced asthma.
There is no cure for asthma, but patients can manage their symptoms through various treatments, such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and bronchodilators - the medication used in inhalers that helps clear mucus from the lungs and reduce inflammation.
However, many people fail to have proper control over their asthma, only treating it during asthma attacks.
"Asthma control remains elusive for many patients, so there is still a need for research to find new therapies," says Mike Tringale, senior vice president at the AAFA.
According to this latest research, a new treatment specifically for allergen-induced asthma may be on the horizon.
Molecule 'blocks T cell signaling that triggers asthma attacks'
Through using mouse models, investigators found a synthetic molecule that was able to obstruct signaling that calls for T cells to start an asthma attack.
In detail, the team discovered that sulfate monosaccharide blocks the communication between chemokine CCL20 - a protein that sends for T cells - and heparin sulfate - a molecule that protects CCL20 and ensures it stays on epithelial cells on the lungs.
Whether delivered by inhalation or intravenously, the team found that the sulfate monosaccharide molecule effectively reduced asthma symptoms in the mice, including inflammation, narrowed airways and mucus production.
Commenting on the team's findings, Fukuda says:
"Pulmonary inhalation of this new molecule may help reduce asthma symptoms by suppressing chemokine-mediated inflammatory responses. We look forward to the further development of the molecule to treat the millions of people who suffer from this chronic disease."
Medical News Today recently reported on a study suggesting that people who live in urban areas are more likely to develop asthma, allergies and other inflammatory disorders because they have reduced exposure to "healthy microbes" in rural settings.
Earlier this year, other research found that a high-fiber diet may protect against asthma. The authors of this study explain that when gut bacteria digest dietary fiber, they also release fatty acids into the bloodstream, which affects how the immune system behaves in the lungs.