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Researchers at Trinity College Dublin hope breakthrough could help asthma sufferers

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have made a breakthrough which could lead to improved therapeutic options for people living with asthma
Marie Louise McConville

RESEARCHERS from Trinity College Dublin have made a breakthrough which could lead to improved therapeutic options for people living with asthma.

The team have uncovered a critical role for a protein, Caspase-11, which has previously never been implicated in the disease.

It was found that the anti-bacterial protein, when over-active, can provoke a damaging inflammatory reaction.

This is likely to be a key driver of allergic inflammation in the lungs of asthmatics.

The research was carried out by Dr Zbigniew Zaslona, working with a team led by Luke O'Neill, Professor of Biochemistry in the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute.

Dr Zaslona said: "Caspase-11 can cause cells to die, which is a very inflammatory event as the cells then release their contents, which can irritate tissues in our body.

"We have found that Caspase-11 is a key driver of inflammation in the airways in asthma.

"This causes the signs and symptoms of asthma which most notably involves difficulty breathing. Although symptoms of mild asthma can be managed with current therapies, severe asthma remains very difficult to treat and asthma rates are constantly on the rise."

Dr Zaslona added: "A variety of irritants such as airborne pollutants, certain types of pollen and house dust mites can induce cell death in the lungs. Our work suggests that Caspase-11 is sensing these noxious things and causing disease.”

Professor O'Neill said: "Caspase-11 - or its human equivalent, which is Caspase-4 - has never been implicated in asthma before so we think it holds great promise as a possible target for new drugs to treat this common, debilitating disease."

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