Asthma cure on horizon after gene discovery
A cure for asthma is on the horizon - after scientists discovered a genetic switch that prevents the condition.
The research, carried out at the University of Southampton, discovered that the gene ADAM33 plays a crucial role in causing the twitchiness and inflammation of airways that trigger an attack.
The gene makes an enzyme that attaches to the muscles in the airways. But the enzyme can 'go rogue', travelling around the lung and sparking the unnecessary production of new muscles and blood vessels - known as airway remodelling - which makes breathing difficult when coupled with an allergen such as pollen or dust.
Studies in human tissue samples and mice show that if the gene is switched off, the enzyme stops being a problem.
Professor Hans Michel Haitchi, associate professor in respiratory medicine, said: "This finding radically alters our understanding of the field, to say the least.
"For years we have thought that airway remodelling is the result of the inflammation caused by an allergic reaction, but our research tells us otherwise."
The new study suggests that a drug to knock out the effects of the ADAM33 gene could prevent attacks.