A team of international researchers has identified a cluster of 291 genes connected with asthma, and 1 gene, arginase, that provides a good target for new drugs, according to a report in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (June 15, 2003). Arginase is an enzyme that breaks down arginine, an amino acid that people eat daily. It is used in the body to make growth factors, connective tissue proteins, and nitric oxide.The researchers have found that, in asthma, arginine appears to be broken down in an unusual way.
Although laboratory work needs to be confirmed in living asthma patients, research shows that the disease is more complicated and far-reaching than originally believed. Scientists first looked at genes in mouse tissue, then compared their findings to genes in human tissue and published on the Internet as part of the Human Genome Project. They found that 6.5% of the mouse genome has altered function in an asthmatic lung.
?It?s our hope that the release of these results will fuel the pharmaceutical industry, as well as other researchers, to take new approaches in asthma research,? said lead author Marc Rothenberg, MD, PhD, director of allergy and immunology at Cincinnati Children?s Hospital.