Asthma treatment could target underlying cause

asthma reliever puffer on its side

University of Queensland researchers are developing a new asthma treatment that targets the underlying cause of asthma, rather than just the symptoms.

About 10% of asthma sufferers do not respond to conventional medications due to the severity of their condition.

UQ Institute of Molecular Bioscience’s Associate Professor Mark Smythe says the research team is developing a new drug designed to offer patients a safer and more effective treatment.

“Current inhaled steroids are designed to treat the symptoms of asthma, not the underlying cause,” A/Prof Smythe says.

“Long-term use of current drug therapies can also cause unwanted side-effects, particularly when taking high doses of steroids.

“Effects can include a reduced growth rate in children and the weakening of bones in adults.”

The researchers are creating new drug therapies that target hematopoietic prostaglandin synthase (HPGD2S) – the enzyme responsible for the overproduction of prostaglandin D2 (PGD2), which plays a role in inflammation and allergies.

“HPGD2 is well recognised as an enzyme which is involved in bringing on asthma, which makes it a valid target for new drug treatments,” A/Prof Smythe says.

He and his colleagues have developed a HPGD2S compound that can be taken orally and can prevent PGD2 production in animals.

To speed up the development of these potential drugs, he has partnered with a team of advisors from the biotechnology industry who have significant commercial and drug discovery experience

The team has received an extension on a National Health and Medical Research Council Development Grant to build on their progress and develop these lead compounds into viable asthma treatments.

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