Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have managed to elucidate the crystal structure of a human membrane protein—LTC4 synthase—which has a major influence on the development of asthma.

Asthma attacks are caused by an acute inflammatory reaction in the airways, a reaction that is largely due to actions of LTC4 synthase. For this reason asthma medicines often aim at blocking the downstream effects of LTC4 synthase. However, there is a need for new pharmaceutical alternatives, since not all patients respond to the existing medicines.

The new results are important since they can pave the way for new and more effective therapeutics against other diseases. Some 40% of the proteins of interest for pharmaceutical developments are membrane proteins.

Until now detailed structural information on these proteins has been absent, and therefore it has been difficult to fully understand their function. A known protein structure therefore makes it easier and faster to develop new pharmaceuticals.