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HATS off to combat asthma
Date:12/4/2007

Two University of Nottingham studies exploring the causes and treatment of asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) could lead to the development of drugs to battle these debilitating conditions.

The Division of Respiratory Medicine at the University has been awarded a total of 1.24m in grants to study respiratory disease. The Wellcome Trust has awarded Prof Alan Knox and Dr Linhua Pang 700,000 to research transcriptional control of inflammatory gene expression in asthma allowing the team to examine the part inflammatory mediators play in the way asthma sufferers react to allergens. A second grant of 540,000 from MRC to Prof Knox and his colleagues Prof Peter Fischer and Prof David Heery will explore histone acetyl transferase (HAT) inhibitors in asthma and COPD. This study will investigate a bank of plant extracts at the University of Strathclyde, seeking compounds that could combat the intercellular processes that result in the symptoms of asthma and COPD inflammation of the airways which can lead to coughing, breathlessness and increased chest infections.

Though they are different diseases, asthma and COPD affect the human body in a similar way. In asthma, allergens irritate the lungs, in COPD, this is done by cigarette smoke. This irritation inflames the sufferers airways, which the muscles then close, creating a narrowing effect.

Research done at the University over the past 15 years has found that the muscle layer in the airway is more complex than has traditionally been thought. As well as going into spasm during asthma and COPD attacks the muscle layer produces a wide range of mediators and cytokines proteins that act as chemical signallers when it comes into contact with allergens or cigarette smoke. In asthma and COPD sufferers, these proteins are produced by stimulation of airway muscle cell walls in the lungs, releasing intracellular signalling proteins called transcription factors which alter the DNA o
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Contact: Alan Knox
alan.knox@nottingham.ac.uk
University of Nottingham
Source:Eurekalert

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