"We have identified a synthetic molecule, a sulfate monosaccharide, that inhibits the signal that recruits T-cells to the lungs to start an asthma attack," confirmed Minoru Fukuda, lead researcher and a professor in the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program at Sanford-Burnham. "The molecule substantially lessened asthma symptoms such as inflammation, mucus production, and airway constriction."
An asthma attack is the body's immune response to a perceived threat -- pollen, smoke, dust or any other type of airborne irritant.
But in the recent study, mice administered the new molecule -- both intravenously and by inhalation -- were shown to have a reduced asthmatic reaction to a variety of allergens.
The research was published this week in the online journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was assisted by researchers from Germany's Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces and the Free University of Berlin, as well as UC San Diego and Shinshu University in Japan.
"Pulmonary inhalation of this new molecule may help reduce asthma symptoms by suppressing chemokine-mediated inflammatory responses," explained Fukuda. "We look forward to the further development of the molecule to treat the millions of people who suffer from this chronic disease."
Allergic asthma attacks account for 60 percent of all asthma cases; they also account for a quarter of all emergency room visits in the U.S. Of the more than 25 million Americans suffering from asthma, a quarter are children. Among Americans under 19 years of age, fatal asthma attacks have increased nearly 80 percent since 1980.