Scientists find possible new drug target to treat asthma

05 July 2016

Mice that were deficient in the TPL-2 pathway appeared to show increased lung inflammation.

Image: Mice that were deficient in the TPL-2 pathway appeared to show increased lung inflammation.

Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute have identified a possible new drug target to treat allergic asthma - the most common type of asthma.

The research, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), investigated the role of the TPL-2 pathway in the allergic responses of mice to the house dust mite - one of the most common allergens that affects humans.

The TPL-2 pathway controls the production of CCL24 - a protein which is found at high levels in asthma patients - to reduce allergic reactions to house dust mites.

They found that the mice that were deficient in the TPL-2 pathway had a more severe allergic reaction to the house dust mites due to the overproduction of CCL24. This showed that this pathway plays an important role in controlling allergic asthma and could be key to developing drugs to treat the disease.

Allergic asthma is a common disease, affecting millions of people in the UK, in which the airways of the lungs become chronically inflamed.

Professor Steve Ley of the Crick says: "Our interesting early findings show we may have identified a possible new drug target to treat severe allergic asthma. Millions of people suffer from asthma in the UK but despite a good understanding of the biological mechanisms of the disease, the most common treatment is still steroid inhalers, which can have a number of significant side effects. Also, an increasing number of patients develop severe asthma and are resistant to this treatment. Given this, there's an urgent medical need to understand in more detail the molecular mechanisms of severe allergic asthma to identify new ways to treat the disease.

"Our research is in its early stages and further research will be needed to confirm whether changes to the same pathway in humans also leads to severe asthma."

Dr Mark Wilson, who contributed to the work while at the Crick (and has since moved to Genentech in California), said: "Our vital research gives more clues to find better ways to treat a very common disease. Asthma affects millions of people each year so finding better ways to treat the disease is important. We look forward to investigating further and seeing what the follow-up results show." 

The paper, TPL-2 reduces severe allergic airway inflammation by inhibiting CCL24 production in dendritic cells, is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Investigation.

  • Crick scientists studying allergic asthma have identified a protein that plays a role in reactions to house dust mites, pointing to a possible new drug target.
  • This is important because asthma affects millions of people in the UK and an increasing number of patients are resistant to steroid inhalers - the most common current treatment.