New Treatment: A Vaccine for Asthma
Immunoglobuline (IgE) plays a major role in the release of symptom
causing chemicals in asthma. A genetically engineered monoclonal
antibody vaccine known as anti-IgE is currently undergoing human
trials. Monoclonal antibodies are tiny proteins that are produced by
white blood cells involved in immune reactions.
These antibodies target substances such as IgE and neutralize it.
Unlike conventional treatments such as corticosteroids that reverse
inflammation after it has occurred, anti-IgE aims to curtail the
inflammatory process before it starts. The results of the early trials
of anti-IgE (rhuMAb-E25) are encouraging with no significant side
effects reported to date. Anti-IgE should also be helpful in allergic
rhinitis and possibly food allergies.
New Medications New and modified asthma medications are likely to
improve treatment of bronchial asthma. Several medications already in
general use in Canada and Europe are to be marketed in the United
States in the near future. Many other medications are being
investigated. Anti-leukotrienesAdditional anti-leukotriene medications
are likely to join montelukast ,zafirlukast, and zileuton, which are
currently in use in the United States. An agent, MK-0591, which
inhibits the action of an enzyme (5-lipoxygenase) involved in the
formation of leukotrienes, has been found to be effective and appears
promising. Verlukast and pranukast, two agents which block the action
of leukotrienes after they are produced, also appear effective.
Mediator Antagonists Asthma mediators are irritating chemicals that are
either stored within allergy cells (mast cells, eosinophils) or
produced when these cells are activated. These substances produce many
changes that lead to inflammation of the bronchial tubes. Examples
include histamine, leukotrienes, prostaglandins, cytokines,
thromboxanes, and platelet-activating factor (PAF). Additional mediator
antagonists which would have anti-inflammatory properties are currently
under development. Two inhibitors of PAF (WEB-2086, L-659), have already been shown to reduce inflammation in bronchial asthma and appear promising.
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