Inhalers are a lifeline for most sufferers of asthma, but for a few they are ineffective. By understanding the mechanisms underlying the disease, researchers aim to develop better therapies for this minority. A promising target is an ‘asthma protein’ (fluorescing red) which is in both the mucus-producing cells on the internal surface of the lung (shown in green and blue) and in the muscle beneath (red area at bottom left). Researchers hypothesise that an overabundance of this protein causes two of the major symptoms: excess mucus and tightening of the muscles around the airways. Using high-throughput screening they singled out drugs which reduce both mucus secretion and muscle contraction by blocking the asthma protein. Before these newly identified drugs become therapies their effectiveness and safety has to be carefully assessed but in the long term they may be helping more asthmatics to breath freely.
Written by Julie Webb
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