Scientists have found a new treatment for asthma by reprogramming some asthma-promoting immune cells.
Scientists from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have found Suv39h1, an enzyme in asthma-promoting cells, Th2cells, that could help treat asthma patients.
The team discovered the Suv39h1 enzyme while studying Th2cells in mouse models. They found that Suv39h1 enzyme switches off the function of TH2 cells, which helps cure asthma. They believe that the enzyme could be a target for the development of new treatments for chronic inflammatory diseases, in particular allergic asthma that is caused by an excess of Th2 cells.
"Th2 cells have an important function in the immune response, but they also play a significant role in diseases such as allergic asthma," said Dr Rhys Allan, researcher at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, in a statement. "People with asthma have too many Th2 cells, which produce chemical signals that inflame and damage the upper airways. In this study, we discovered that the Suv39h1 enzyme plays a critical role in programming these asthma-promoting cells, making it a potential target for new therapies to treat asthma."
Nearly, 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma. Among them, 1.1 million are children and the remaining 4.3 billion are adults. In 2009, more than 1,000 children died from asthma in the UK.
Scientists claim that the new discovery will help them save many lives across the world. They say that Suv39h1 could destabilise Th2 cells in people who have an excess of these asthma-promoting cells so they no longer cause inflammation and any other asthma-related problems.
"We had the idea that erasing these epigenetic tags could 'short-circuit' the asthma-promoting Th2 cells and diminish the inflammatory immune response. And, in fact, in mouse models of allergic asthma, blocking this pathway with an inhibitory compound did reduce allergy-related airway damage. Ultimately, our results have identified a potential target for therapeutic intervention in asthma and potentially other Th2-mediated inflammatory diseases, which could improve outcomes for patients," Dr Allan said.
Scientists are planning to conduct some more studies on the epigenetic circuitry of asthma-promoting immune cells.