Gene breakthrough offers hope to asthma sufferers

Asthma cure could be on the cardsAsthma cure could be on the cards
Asthma cure could be on the cards
A new gene therapy which could reduce inflammation asthma sufferers' lungs is on the horizon offering hope to millions of patients.

A study showed the gene therapy dramatically boosted the working of patients’ lungs.

Asthma affects 5.5 million people in the UK. On average three people per day or one person every eight hours dies from the condition.

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Experiments found a dose of a molecule called thymulin reduced inflammation and improved the structure and function in the lungs of asthmatic mice.

Scientists believe the technique could be used to repair the lungs of chronic asthma sufferers whose disease is not controlled by the most commonly used treatments.

They told the American Thoracic Society conference in San Francisco they plan to start human trials soon.

Dr Adriana Lopes da Silva, of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, said: “We found a single dose of highly compacted DNA nanoparticle thymulin gene therapy effectively reduces the inflammatory and remodeling process in asthmatic lungs.

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“This is especially important because some patients do not benefit from long-lasting beta2-agonists and inhaled corticosteroids which are the most widely used asthma therapies.”

In asthma, airways become inflamed resulting in narrowing - causing debilitating symptoms that include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

Asthma and other respiratory diseases also cause changes in the large and small airways of the lungs, known as “remodelling”.

This is believed to be caused by long-term inflammation and leads to worsening of patients’ asthma.

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Dr da Silva said: “Alternative therapeutic approaches that can both reduce inflammatory and remodeling processes by over-expressing or inhibiting specific genes in the asthma inflammatory cascade, in different types of asthma and without leading to immunosuppression, are sorely needed.”

Her group recently found the insertion of a thymulin gene into DNA nano-particles enhanced airway repair and improved lung function in a mouse model of allergic asthma.

The current study looked at how to deliver this molecule in order to improve its therapeutic effects.

Laboratory-bred female mice exposed to ovalbumin - an egg protein that causes asthma - had better lungs 20 days after getting the gene therapy than a control group receiving a saline solution.

Dr da Silva said: “We now need to better understand the mechanisms behind this therapeutic strategy. We hope to then start Phase I trials in the near future.”

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