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Surprise drug that may prevent asthma discovered

Melbourne: A drug originally developed to treat leukaemia is effective in the prevention of asthma by targeting its causative mechanisms rather than just treating the symptoms, a new research has found.

The research centres on the role played by two proteins in the lungs in causing asthma attacks.

When these proteins come into contact with the common cold virus and dust mites, the two main asthma triggers, they work together to produce a series of events that cause an attack, researchers said in a statement.

The study shows that a compound in the drug is able to activate a protein that is suppressed during asthma. This could mean that in the future doctors would be able to treat the cause of asthma, not just the symptoms.

"Asthma is one of the major diseases of the developed world. It`s very rare to find a compound that can reverse the symptoms of asthma," said Dr Anthony Don, who started working on the compound in the treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia.

"The important thing with this compound is that it`s not just alleviating the symptoms, it`s hitting at an underlying disease mechanism," said Don, a team leader at the University of New South Wales Lowy Cancer Research Centre.
Associate Professor Jonathan Morris from the School of Chemistry synthesised the compound.

The development is also significant because asthma attacks are currently treated similarly regardless of whether they are caused by viruses or allergens, but virus-induced effects are much less responsive to current therapies.

The compound could also be used in the treatment of other inflammatory diseases.

The study was published in the journal Nature Medicine.