An international study led by the University of Glasgow, including collaborators from the Centenary Institute, has identified a new class of drugs that could pave the way to a new treatment for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The breakthrough findings, published in the journal ‘Science Translational Medicine’, found that the drugs were able to reverse the symptoms of asthma in animal models.
Researchers also found that the same drugs, when applied to lung samples obtained from human donors, showed effects similar to those seen in the animal models.
Scientists believe that these combined findings offer new hope that these drugs could provide new medicines for human inflammatory lung disease.
The new approach is centred on the activation of a protein that, up until now has been known to respond to good fats contained in our diet. The protein, called free fatty acid receptor 4 (FFA4), is found in the gut and pancreas where it is activated by good dietary fats including the fish oil omega 3. Once activated FFA4 is known to help control levels of glucose in the blood.
Surprisingly the research team found FFA4 to be present in the human lung.
By designing a new class of drugs that activate FFA4 in the lung, the researchers found that the muscle that surrounds the airways relaxes allowing more air to enter the lung. They also found that activators of FFA4 reduced inflammation caused by exposure of mice to pollution, cigarette smoke and allergens like house dust mite that cause asthma.
In this way the researchers have established that activating FFA4 can reverse the key hallmarks of inflammatory lung disease heralding the prospect of new drugs for the treatment of lung disease.
“The study was a truly collaborative effort with some of the experimental work done here in Australia, utilising our world-class facilities, said Professor Phil Hansbro, co-author on the published study and Director of the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation.
“I’m optimistic that this breakthrough could lead to life-changing treatments for sufferers of asthma and COPD, both of which can be devastating and deadly diseases,” he said.
Photo (L to R): Publication co-authors from the Centenary Institute, Dr Richard Kim, Professor Phil Hansbro, Dr Chantal Donovan.
The full media release can be found here.
The research publication can be found here.