A study published online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation reports drugs limiting excess amounts of mucus could save the lives of those with respiratory conditions that restrict breathing. No effective treatments currently exist to address the overproduction of airway mucus.
Research from the study demonstrated that CLCA1, a critical signaling molecule, has an important role in the mucus pathway. The molecule allows the protein IL-13 to turn on the major mucus genes in airway cells. Researchers noted that CLCA1 needs help from the enzyme MAPK13. While there are no existing drugs that act against MAPK13, study author Michael J. Holtzman, MD, Selma and Herman Seldin Professor of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, notes that there are several that prevent a similar enzyme known as MAPK14.
“We could take advantage of MAPK14 inhibitors that were already known,” said Holtzman. “These drugs bind to a specific pocket in MAPK14 to block its activity. For MAPK13, that pocket itself has some obstructions making it more crowded and harder to access, so these older drugs can’t fit into the pocket to block activity.”
Study results show that some of the research team’s newly designed MAPK13 inhibitors reduced mucus production in cultures of human airway cells by 100 fold.