Washington, Feb 15 : Researchers from Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry have moved a step closer to developing a new class of effective asthma and allergy drugs.
The researchers found an important target that holds significant promise for millions of people suffering from allergies, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and a range of other inflammatory diseases.
The study showed that a key component of the body's own response to allergy-causing agents (allergens) can be targeted to reduce allergic reactions in mice.
In the study, the researchers found that by targeting a molecule called p110delta it is possible to interfere in the allergic reaction before symptoms occur, and without shutting down the immune system.
p110delta is a member of a family of eight proteins called PI3Ks, which control important biological functions. Their activity is implicated in many different diseases including cancer, and they are an important target for drugs.
However, drugs that act on all PI3K family members tend to be toxic in the body. For this reason the researchers used genetic techniques to find out which PI3K family members are linked to specific diseases.
By gaining a better understanding of each PI3K researchers hope to target drugs more specifically and reduce the potential for side effects.
The p110gamma member of the PI3K family had earlier been implicated in allergic reactions and was thought to be more important than p110delta.
However, in the current study, it has been confirmed that p110delta, but not p110gamma, is important for allergic reactions in a mouse model.
The new findings will help to inform and drive decisions in industry to prioritise which PI3K family members should be targeted for further investment and development.
The next step is to develop p110delta blockers is now ongoing in industry, and is expected to proceed into the preclinical arena in humans in the near future.
" This work shows that we have the potential to take control of the body's reaction to an allergen and prevent symptoms from occurring," said lead author of the study, Dr Khaled Ali.
Professor Bart Vanhaesebroeck added: "This work confirms our previous findings and shows once and for all that in an allergic reaction it is p110delta that is the key player among the PI3K molecules."
"We are very hopeful that a drug for human patients can be developed in the very near future. This approach offers the potential for therapies for asthma and allergies that target the real causes, not just symptoms," Vanhaesebroeck added.
The study is published in The Journal of Immunology.