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Researchers Discover Enzyme That Could Be Promising Target To Treat Asthma And Cancer

Update Date: Apr 11, 2014 10:02 AM EDT
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Researchers have identified an enzyme involved in the regulation of immune system T cells that could be a useful target in treating asthma and boosting the effects of certain cancer therapies. 

In their experiments carried on mice, investigators found that mice without the enzyme SKG1 were resistant to dust mite-induced asthma. They also found that mice with melanoma and missing the enzyme, developed considerably lesser lung tumors than mice with SKG1.

"If we can develop a drug that blocks the enzyme in a way that mimics what happens when the enzyme is missing, we would not only have a treatment to inhibit asthma, but also a drug that could be used in conjunction with other experimental therapies aimed at helping the immune system fight cancer," said Jonathan D. Powell, M.D., professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, in the press release.

Researchers decided to look at SKG1 as it worked along the same pathway of protein called mTOR. The mTOR pathway helped T cells decipher signals from their environment prompting the cells to transform into specific T cell types.

In the study, researchers also noted that SKG1 promoted the production of T helper 2 cells, which becomes overactive in asthma and other allergies. If there was a drug that could shut down SKG1, it could help block the inflammation causing asthma and other allergic reactions. 

"We're not suppressing or exacerbating the immune system, we're regulating it," noted Powell. "We're regulating it to do exactly what we want it to do."

The findings have been published in the journal Nature Immunology

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