May 21 (HealthDay News) -- A protein that might be linked to allergy-induced asthma has been identified by U.S. researchers, who said their finding could lead to new drugs to treat the disease.
The researchers found that mice without the ion channel protein TRPA1 showed fewer signs of asthma.
"When compared to normal mice, those lacking the gene for TRPA1 had greatly diminished inflammation, airway mucus and bronchoconstriction," the study's lead author, Sven-Eric Jordt, an assistant professor of pharmacology at Yale School of Medicine, said in a Yale news release.
Previous research has shown that TRPA1 is a sensor for irritants such as cigarette smoke and certain chemicals that can trigger asthma. The protein is found in airway nerve cells that control pain and irritation and trigger coughing and sneezing.
The researchers also found that a drug called HC-030031 -- which is known to inhibit pain related to TRPA1 -- reduced asthma symptoms in mice.
"Blocking TRPA1 may prevent the infiltration of the lung by the inflammatory cells responsible for asthma symptoms such as wheezing and mucus overproduction," Jordt said.
Several of the researchers are advisers or employees of the biosciences company that is developing HC-030031 as a potential asthma drug.
The study appears online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
SOURCE: Yale University, news release, May 18, 2009