Unlocking asthma relief: Australian scientists pioneer new treatment path

By Our Reporter
The urgency of finding effective treatments is underscored by the recent spike in asthma-related fatalities, with a 30% national increase to 467 deaths in 2022 alone

In the face of a worrying surge in asthma fatalities across Australia, with South Australia witnessing a staggering 88% jump in deaths, a beam of hope shines through from the scientific community. A novel approach targeting a specific inflammatory protein could revolutionize the treatment for severe and steroid-resistant asthma, offering new avenues for patients grappling with the debilitating condition.

Australian researchers have embarked on a groundbreaking journey, uncovering the pivotal role of a family of proinflammatory molecules, known as beta common cytokines, in orchestrating the inflammation and scarring observed in severe asthma cases. These molecules are central to the development of fibrosis in the airways, exacerbating the condition for those affected.

The spearhead of this innovative research, a human therapeutic antibody dubbed trabikihart, emerges as a beacon of hope. It promises to thwart the inflammation and fibrosis that are hallmarks of severe asthma, paving the way for a potential breakthrough in treatment strategies.

This discovery is the fruit of collaborative efforts led by the University of South Australia (UniSA) and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), with contributions from researchers at CSL and SA Pathology. The findings, recently published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, underscore the significance of their work.

Dr. Damon Tumes, the study’s co-leader and Head of the Allergy and Cancer Immunology Laboratory at the Centre for Cancer Biology, highlights the profound impact of their findings. According to Dr. Tumes, inflammation and tissue damage in severe asthma are induced by various immune cells that infiltrate the lungs in response to allergens, viruses, and other microbes. For some individuals, this inflammation proves resistant to steroids, which are typically the first line of defense in managing severe asthma.

The challenge with current treatments for severe asthma lies in their limited scope, often targeting single molecules despite the disease’s complexity involving multiple cells and inflammatory pathways. Dr. Tumes and his team propose that a more effective approach might lie in targeting multiple inflammatory cytokines with a single drug, offering a more comprehensive strategy to manage and control this challenging chronic airway disease.

The urgency of finding effective treatments is underscored by the recent spike in asthma-related fatalities, with a 30% national increase to 467 deaths in 2022 alone. This marks the highest death toll since 2017, attributed in part to the resurgence of viral respiratory infections post-COVID and environmental factors like increased fungal spores and pollen due to widespread rainfall.

Experts believe that many of these deaths could have been prevented with proper treatment management, particularly the use of inhaled corticosteroids, which are often overlooked or misused by patients.

This pioneering research offers a glimmer of hope, suggesting that by focusing on the underlying inflammatory processes, we might soon have more effective tools at our disposal to combat severe asthma, potentially saving lives and improving the quality of life for those affected.

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