According to Boston Children’s Hospital, new research supports targeting sensory nerve endings in the lungs with a selective drug as a new method for controlling asthma.

Nociceptor nerve endings are known to be more abundant and readily activated in individuals with asthma, and researchers have made the case for a neuro-immune cycle in asthma with nociceptors at its center. Sébastien Talbot, PhD, first author on the paper, states, “There was prior evidence that neurons and the immune system talk to each other. We wanted to see if such interplay also occurs in asthma.”

The research team, led by Clifford Woolf, MD, PhD, director of the FM Kirby Neurobiology Center, and Bruce Levy, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, induced asthma in mice by exposing them to dust mites or ovalbumin, another allergen. The researchers then administered the drug QX-314 to the asthmatic mice via nebulizer, which reduced airway inflammation and bronchial twitchiness. The Boston Children’s Hospital news report notes that the drug selectively silences nociceptors activated by inflammation, an approach developed by the Woolf lab.

Woolf explains, “An attractive aspect of targeting nociceptors is that this approach would be most effective when inflammation is already present and should accelerate its resolution.” The drug QX-314 is expected to have fewer side effects than lidocaine, and it also stays inside cells for prolonged periods without getting in the bloodstream.

The Boston Children’s Hospital news report notes that with the help of the Harvard and Boston Children’s technology development offices, the Woolf and Bean labs are working on new, more potent versions of QX-314 that would enhance both its safety and its beneficial properties, with the aim of testing them clinically.

Levy says, “Current asthma treatments can help to control symptoms and dampen airway inflammation; however, therapies are not available to promote the resolution of asthma. A treatment to interrupt the vicious cycle of neuro-immune signaling holds promise as a disease-modifying therapy and is mechanistically distinct from any of the currently available asthma therapies.”

Source: Boston Children’s Hospital