Asthma cure could be developed in next 5-10 years

UK scientists may have discovered a potential and novel way of preventing the disease

Asthma cure could be developed in next 5-10 years

Stock Image | Image: Brian Lawless / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Scientists in the UK may have discovered a potential and novel way of preventing asthma.

A study carried out at the University of Southampton identified the gene - ADAM33 - responsible for causing" twitchiness and inflammation of airways" which can trigger an attack in sufferers.

ADAM33 makes an enzyme that attached to cells in the airway muscles. When the enzyme loses its anchor to the cell surface, it is prone to going rogue around the lung, causing poorer lung function in people who have asthma.

The study found that when ADAM33 was switched off they could completely reverse the abnormal airwave structures associated with asthma attacks and therefore prevent the disease in patients.

Current treatments are only designed to relieve and treat the symptoms, such as inflammation, but they do not prevent the change in the airwave structure. 

Lead scientist Professor Hans Michel Haitchi said the findings radically alter their understanding of the disease.

“For years we have thought that airway remodelling is the result of the inflammation caused by an allergic reaction, but our research tells us otherwise.”

"Stopping this ADAM33 induced process would prevent a harmful effect that promotes the development of allergic asthma for many of the 5.4 million people in the UK with the condition.”

Ireland has the fourth highest prevalence of asthma in the world, affecting just under 20% of 13-15 year olds.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Professor Haitchi said the next steps are to develop small molecules that might block the rouge enzyme of ADAM33 in conjunction with pharmaceutical companies.

"It will take some more research [...] but we hope that within the next 5-10 years we will have something to treat not only the inflammation but the origin of the disease."