Study reveals new way lungs respond in asthma attacks

Posted by ap507 at Apr 04, 2016 08:10 PM |
University of Leicester researchers identify new process for preventing narrowing of airways that could lead to new treatments for disease

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 4 April

Scientists have discovered a new way in which the lungs operate during asthma that could lead to new treatments for the disease.

In a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, the researchers at the Leicester Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit at the University of Leicester and the Medical Research Council (MRC) Toxicology Unit have identified a new biochemical process that controls how air enters and leaves the lungs during normal lung function and during asthma.

The scientists – funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and working in collaboration with the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London – used state-of–the-art methods to dissect the biochemical pathways involved in the contraction of the airway muscle.

By disrupting these biochemical pathways in a mouse model of asthma the scientists discovered that they could prevent airway narrowing and maintain normal lung function.

Lab experiments on mice, such as this, allow us to establish causal effects in this species, but it is too early to say whether these results apply to people.

Co-lead author of the study Professor Andrew Tobin from the MRC Toxicology Unit which is located at the University of Leicester, said: “This is a real breakthrough in our understanding of how the lung works in both normal conditions and during disease. The fundamental biochemical process that we have discovered will ultimately allow us to better design ways to develop new treatments for those suffering from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).”

The lung is made up of tiny tubes called airways that allow air in and out of the lung. Each airway is surrounded by muscles that control the diameter of the airway.

In asthma and other airway diseases such as COPD the airway muscle contracts causing the airways to become narrow and restricting the flow of air in and out of the lung.

5.4 million people in the UK suffer with asthma, with the disease affecting one in every 11 people and one in five households.

The World Health Organisation estimates show that 235 million people worldwide currently suffer from asthma with over 80% of asthma deaths occurring in low and lower-middle income countries. The disease is predicted to increase worldwide over the next 10 years.  

Dr Yassine Amrani, co-lead author from the University of Leicester’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, added: “We have taken a major step forward in our understanding of how airways of patients with asthma tend to narrow excessively, a feature often encountered during severe forms of the disease. By uncovering factors responsible for this exaggerated bronchospasm, this breakthrough will lay the essential foundations on which to build new strategies to combat airway diseases such as asthma.”

The paper, Mapping Physiological G protein-Coupled Receptor Signaling Pathways Reveals Role For Receptor Phosphorylation In Airway Contraction, is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA and will be available here: http://www.pnas.org/lookup/doi/10.1073/pnas.1521706113

The paper can also be accessed by EurekAlert: http://www.eurekalert.org/account.php

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS:

For more information please contact Professor Andrew Tobin on tba@leicester.ac.uk or Dr Yassine Amrani on ya26@leicester.ac.uk

The University of Leicester is a leading UK University committed to international excellence through the creation of world changing research and high quality, inspirational teaching. Leicester is consistently one of the UK's most socially inclusive universities with a long-standing commitment to providing fairer and equal access to higher education. Leicester is a three-time winner of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education and is the only University to win seven consecutive awards from the Times Higher. Leicester is ranked among the top one per-cent of universities in the world by the THE World University Rankings.

The Medical Research Council is at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health. Thirty-one MRC-funded researchers have won Nobel prizes in a wide range of disciplines, and MRC scientists have been behind such diverse discoveries as vitamins, the structure of DNA and the link between smoking and cancer, as well as achievements such as pioneering the use of randomised controlled trials, the invention of MRI scanning, and the development of a group of antibodies used in the making of some of the most successful drugs ever developed. Today, MRC-funded scientists tackle some of the greatest health problems facing humanity in the 21st century, from the rising tide of chronic diseases associated with ageing to the threats posed by rapidly mutating micro-organisms. www.mrc.ac.uk

 

 

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