Millions of Americans suffer from asthma, a chronic lung condition characterized by tightness on the chest, breathlessness, wheezing and coughing whenever the sufferer is exposed to certain allergens. A study conducted by a group of international researchers, however, may possibly lead to treatments and bring relief to asthma sufferers.
For the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on May 12, researchers have identified a new synthetic molecule that could prevent asthma attacks that are caused by allergens such as tobacco smoke, dust mites, pollen or fur.
By administering the synthetic sulfate monosaccharide to mice models by inhalation and intravenously, the researchers observed that the mice exhibited reduced asthmatic reactions to different kinds of allergens.
Study researcher Minoru Fukuda, from the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, said that the synthetic molecule obstructs the signal that prompts the T-cells to initiate an asthma attack, which occurs when the body reacts in response to airborne irritants that it perceives as a threat. The molecule thus suppresses the T-cells in the lung from triggering inflammation caused by allergens.
"Pulmonary inhalation of this new molecule may help reduce asthma symptoms by suppressing chemokine-mediated inflammatory responses," Fukuda said. "We look forward to the further development of the molecule to treat the millions of people who suffer from this chronic disease."
The prevalence of asthma in the U.S. has increased by more than four million from 2001 to 2009. The disease was linked with more than 2,400 deaths in 2007 which translates to nine deaths per day. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also show that about 1 in 12 individuals in the U.S. have asthma and the number continues to increase per year.
Although the condition remains incurable, asthma attacks can be prevented by avoiding allergens that trigger immune response as well as by taking medicines prescribed by the doctor. Still asthma suffers hope that a treatment will becomes available in the future.
"There is currently no cure for asthma, and asthma control remains elusive for many patients, so there is still a need for research to find new therapies," said Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) senior vice president Mike Tringale.