Scientists from a University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have demonstrated that a single "master switch" enzyme, known as aldose reductase, is key in producing excess mucous that clogs the airways of people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The enzyme's action can be blocked by drugs whose safety has been shown in clinical trials for other diseases.
The discovery could improve therapies for the 510 million people worldwide suffering from asthma and COPD.
Using cell culture and laboratory mouse experiments, the researchers showed that the enzyme, aldose reductase, is essential to a process known as goblet cell metaplasia that is seen in both asthma and COPD. In goblet cell metaplasia, exposure to allergens such as pollen, mold and dust mites initiates a series of biochemical reactions that causes the cells that line the air passages of the lungs to change from their normal state into so-called "goblet cells," which produce substantial amounts of excess mucus.
"The discovery that aldose reductase regulates mucus production and goblet cell metaplasia makes inhibition of this enzyme an attractive therapeutic option to reduce mucus-related airway obstructive diseases - and for the first time gives us a real chance to alter the course of the underlying disease in asthma and COPD," said UTMB Health biochemistry and molecular biology professor Satish Srivastava, senior author of the paper.
The findings have been published in the online journal PLoS One. (ANI)