Newfound airway cells may breathe life into tackling cystic fibrosis

By Aimee Cunningham

Meet the ionocyte. This newly discovered cell may be the star of future cystic fibrosis therapies. Researchers have found that the gene tied to the disease is very active in the cells, which line the air passages of the lungs.

While the cells are rare, making up only 1 to 2 percent of cells that line the airways, they seem to play an outsized role in keeping lungs clear. The identification of the ionocyte “provides key information for targeting treatments,” says medical geneticist Garry Cutting of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, who was not involved in the research. Two teams, working independently, each describe the new cell online August 1 in Nature.

The ionocyte shares its name with similar cells found in fish gills and frog skin. This type of cell regulates fluid movement at surfaces — skin, gills, airways — where air and water meet. In people, special proteins that tunnel across cell membranes lining the airways allow chloride ions (half of what makes salt) to move into the airway. This causes water to move into the airway through a different channel to moisten mucus along the lining, which helps it remove bacteria and inhaled particles from the body.

The tunnel protein that allows chloride ions through is made by a gene called CFTR. In cystic fibrosis patients, that gene is flawed. Airways can’t regulate water movement properly and get clogged with thick mucus that traps bacteria and leads to persistent infections and lung damage. The genetic disease affects at least 70,000 people worldwide, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Bethesda, Md.

Researchers had suspected CFTR was most active in ciliated cells — cells with brushlike projections that work along with the mucus in airways to move invaders out. But the new work found very little gene activity in those cells, compared with the ionocytes.

In experiments with laboratory samples of mouse cells from the airway lining, cell biologist Jayaraj Rajagopal of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and his colleagues found that the gene was very active in ionocytes: out of all the instructions for building the tunnels detected in the cells, 54 percent came from ionocytes. Aron Jaffe, a respiratory disease researcher at Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., and his colleagues reported that, in laboratory samples of human airways cells, ionocytes were the source of 60 percent of the activity of the tunnels.

The discovery of the new cells raises a lot of questions. Jaffe wonders where ionocytes are positioned in the lining of the airways, and how that placement supports the coordination of water movement and mucus secretion by other cells. “You can imagine the distribution [of ionocytes] is really important,” he says.

A question Rajagopal has: “How does a rare cell type do all of this work?” In fish and frogs, ionocytes are loaded with mitochondria, the so-called cellular energy factories, he notes. Maybe that will be true for human ionocytes, too, giving them lots of energy to do the lion’s share of regulating the movement of water.

Both researchers say the ionocyte’s discovery should lead to a better understanding of cystic fibrosis. “It will let us think about creative new ways to approach the disease,” Rajagopal says.

Original article here.

Cinnamon Oil Compound Might Block Bacteria Like P. aeruginosa from Forming Biofilms

By: Alice Melao

A natural component found in cinnamon oil, known as cinnamaldehyde or CAD, may be able to prevent Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria from spreading in an organism and inhibit their ability to form antibiotic-resistant biofilms, researchers show.

These findings may support further study into anti-microbial medications that can help control the behavior of these so-called superbugs, or treatment-resistant bacteria, which represent a serious healthcare problem for people with cystic fibrosis and other diseases.

The discovery was reported in “Cinnamaldehyde disrupts biofilm formation and swarming motility of Pseudomonas aeruginosa,” published in the journal Microbiology.

“Humans have a long history of using natural products to treat infections, and there is a renewed focus on such antimicrobial compounds,” Sanjida Halim Topa, PhD, a researcher at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, and lead study author, said in a university news release. “Natural products may offer a promising solution to this problem.”

Cinnamaldehyde, one of the major components of cinnamon oil, is responsible for its characteristic flavor. This compound is known to have antimicrobial activity against many bacteria, including P. aeruginosa; a stomach ulcer-causing bacteria called Helicobacter pylori; and Listeria monocytogenes, which is responsible for the food-borne infection listeriosis.

“We hypothesized that using natural antimicrobials, such as essential oils, might interfere in [drug-resistant] biofilm formation,” Topa said. “Though many previous studies have reported antimicrobial activity of cinnamon essential oil, it is not widely used in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Working with researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, the team conducted several experiments to evaluate the impact of different concentrations of cinnamaldehyde on P. aeruginosa biofilms.

They found that non-lethal amounts of the essential oil compound could disrupt by 75.6 % antibiotic-resistant, preformed P. aeruginosa biofilms. Cinnamaldehyde was found to prevent the production of a bacterial-signaling protein essential for bacteria communication and biofilm formation. [Biofilms, or microbe communities whose growth is facilitated by the thick and sticky mucus that marks CF, are known to promote antibiotic resistance in P. aeruginosa lung infections.]

In a concentration-dependent manner, cinnamaldehyde also could reduce the motility of the bacteria, preventing them from spreading elsewhere, the scientists reported.

These findings, the researchers wrote, show “CAD can disrupt biofilms and other surface colonization phenotypes through the modulation of intracellular signaling processes.”

They are now investigating the use of cinnamaldehyde embedded-wound dressings as a way to treat skin infections.

Original article here.

Anaerobic bacteria cultured from CF airways correlate to milder disease-a multisite study

Anaerobic and aerobic bacteria were quantitated in respiratory samples across three cystic fibrosis (CF) centres using extended culture methods. Subjects, ages 1–69 years, who were clinically stable provided sputum (n=200) or bronchoalveolar lavage (n=55). Eighteen anaerobic and 39 aerobic genera were cultured from 59% and 95% of samples, respectively; 16/57 genera had a ≥5% prevalence across centres. Analyses of microbial communities using co-occurrence networks in sputum samples showed groupings of oral, including anaerobic, bacteria whereas typical CF pathogens formed distinct entities. Pseudomonas was associated with worse nutrition and F508del genotype, whereas anaerobe prevalence was positively associated with pancreatic sufficiency, better nutrition and better lung function. A higher ratio of total anaerobe/total aerobe colony forming units was associated with pancreatic sufficiency and better nutrition. Subjects grouped by factor analysis who had relative dominance of anaerobes over aerobes had milder disease compared to a Pseudomonas-dominated group with similar proportions of subjects being homozygous for F508del. In summary, anaerobic bacteria occurred at an early age. In sputum producing subjects anaerobic bacteria were associated with milder disease suggesting that targeted eradication of anaerobes may not be warranted in sputum producing CF subjects.

Full article here.

Toothpaste ingredient may bust up cystic fibrosis biofilms

By Chris Waters and Sarina Gleason

A common antibacterial substance in toothpaste may combat life-threatening diseases such as cystic fibrosis when combined with an with an FDA-approved drug, researchers report.

Researchers have found that when triclosan, a substance that reduces or prevents bacteria from growing, combines with an antibiotic called tobramycin, it kills the cells that protect the CF bacteria, known as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, by up to 99.9 percent.

CF is a common genetic disease with one in every 2,500 to 3,500 people diagnosed with it at an early age. It results in a thick mucus in the lungs, which becomes a magnet for bacteria.

These bacteria are notoriously difficult to kill because a slimy barrier known as a biofilm, which allows the disease to thrive even when treated with antibiotics, protects them.

“The problem that we’re really tackling is finding ways to kill these biofilms,” says Chris Waters, lead author of the study and a microbiology professor at Michigan State University.

According to Waters, there are many common biofilm-related infections that people get, including ear infections and swollen, painful gums caused by gingivitis. But more serious, potentially fatal diseases join the ranks of CF including endocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, as well as infections from artificial hip and pacemaker implants.

Waters and his coauthors grew 6,000 biofilms in petri dishes, added in tobramycin along with many different compounds, to see what worked better at killing the bacteria. Twenty-five potential compounds were effective, but one stood out.

“It’s well known that triclosan, when used by itself, isn’t effective at killing Pseudomonas aeruginosa,” says coauthor Alessandra Hunt, a postdoctoral associate of microbiology and molecular genetics. “But when I saw it listed as a possible compound to use with tobramycin, I was intrigued. We found triclosan was the one that worked every time.”

Triclosan has been used for more than 40 years in soaps, makeup, and other commercial products because of its antibacterial properties. Recently, the FDA ruled to limit its use in soaps and hand sanitizers due to insufficient data on its increased effectiveness and concern about overuse. Clear evidence has shown, though, that its use in toothpaste is safe and highly effective in fighting gingivitis, and it is still approved for use.

“Limiting its use is the right thing to do,” says coauthor Michael Maiden, a graduate student in medicine. “The key is to avoid creating resistance to a substance so when it’s found in numerous products, the chances of that happening increase.”

Tobramycin is currently the most widely used treatment for CF, but it typically doesn’t clear the lungs of infection, Waters says. Patients typically inhale the drug, yet still find themselves chronically infected their whole lives, eventually needing a lung transplant.

“Most transplants aren’t a viable option though for these patients and those who do have a transplant see a 50 percent failure rate within five years,” he says. “The other issue is that tobramycin can be toxic itself.” Known side effects from the drug include kidney toxicity and hearing loss.

“Our triclosan finding gives doctors another potential option and allows them to use significantly less of the tobramycin in treatment, potentially reducing its use by 100 times,” Hunt says.

Within the next year, Waters and his colleagues will begin testing the effectiveness of the combination therapy on mice with hopes of it heading to a human trial soon after since both drugs are already FDA approved.

Just brushing your teeth with toothpaste that has triclosan won’t help to treat lung infections though, Maiden says.

“We’re working to get this potential therapy approved so we can provide a new treatment option for CF patients, as well as treat other biofilm infections that are now untreatable. We think this can save lives,” he says.

The research appears in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

The National Institutes of Health, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Hunt for a Cure in Grand Rapids, Michigan funded the research.

Source: Michigan State University

Defining chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection in cystic fibrosis

By Valerie Waters and Keith Grimwood

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic, multi-system disease due to mutations in the cystic fibrosis conductance regulator (CFTR) gene, leading to ineffective anion channel activity [1]. The resulting impaired mucociliary clearance permits initial acquisition of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and, if untreated, the establishment of persistent infection in the CF airways. It has long been recognized that chronic infection, often characterized by a mucoid P. aeruginosa phenotype, is associated with more rapid lung function decline and earlier death in individuals with CF [[2], [3], [4]]. Defining chronic P. aeruginosa infection is, therefore, an important step in identifying CF patients most at risk of lung disease progression. Traditionally, the Leed’s criteria has been used to define chronicity (as having >50% of sputum cultures being P. aeruginosa positive in the preceding 12 months), as it is the only clinically validated definition [5]. However, the Leed’s criteria are difficult to implement in young children unable to provide sputum and further limited by the required number of sputum samples and follow-up time [6].

In this issue of the Journal, studies by Heltshe et al. and Boutin et al. aim to re-define what chronic P. aeruginosa infection means in CF. In a retrospective cohort study using data from the US CF Foundation Patient Registry, Heltshe et al. followed close to 6000 early-diagnosed CF children for approximately 6 years [7]. Two-thirds acquired P. aeruginosa infection and of those, 6% had an initial mucoid phenotype. Furthermore, the majority (87%) of children who developed mucoid infection did so before meeting the definition of chronic infection (at least 3 yearly quarters P. aeruginosa positive in the preceding year). Initial P. aeruginosa infection with a mucoid phenotype has been previously described and is a recognized risk factor for failure of antimicrobial eradication therapy [[8], [9], [10]]. Whether this initial acquisition of a mucoid phenotype represents prior adaptation of P. aeruginosa in the CF host (either undetected or transmitted from a patient with chronic infection) or simply infection with an environmental strain particularly well-suited to the CF airways, is as of yet unknown [11]. It is clear, though, that mucoid P. aeruginosa does have an adaptive advantage in early CF infection as mucoidy was associated with an almost three-fold increased risk of transition to chronic infection in this current study. Despite the presence of this risk factor, however, only 13% of P. aeruginosa infected patients went on to develop chronic infection. Although Heltshe et al. did not provide details as to eradication strategies used in this cohort, this low incidence of persistent infection does speak to the overall effectiveness of current antimicrobial treatment for early P. aeruginosa infection.

Boutin et al. took their investigation a step further by using molecular methods, specifically quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), to define chronic P. aeruginosa infection [12]. In their study, patients with chronic infection had significantly higher levels of P. aeruginosa as measured by qPCR compared to those with intermittent infection. A single P. aeruginosa qPCR measurement in sputum had a sensitivity of 84% (with a specificity of 85%) in detecting chronic infection using a threshold of 103.4 colony forming units (CFU)/ml. A single sputum PCR measure had the advantage of not requiring 12 months of culture results as per the Leed’s criteria [5]. Furthermore, in their small study sample size, PCR was more discriminatory than mucoidy status in predicting chronicity, not surprisingly, given that alginate production (conferring mucoidy) is only one of several virulence factors contributing to the establishment of persistent P. aeruginosa infection in CF [13]. When used in throat swab samples, qPCR had a considerably lower sensitivity (82%) and specificity (56%) in detecting chronic infection, likely due in part to the lower bacterial burden observed in this specimen, compared to sputum. The low specificity of PCR in this setting (positive PCR, negative culture) may reflect the fact that a molecular signal may precede culture positivity. Early detection of P. aeruginosa infection, before culture conversion, in CF patients was originally suggested decades ago using serologic and, more recently, molecular methods [[14], [15], [16]]. Serology, however, has proven disappointing at identifying early P. aeruginosa infection [17]. Nevertheless, early detection may still be possible using highly-sensitive PCR techniques for identifying lower airway P. aeruginosa infection in a young, non-expectorating child. In the study by Boutin et al., P. aeruginosa detection in throat swabs by PCR alone was linked to a positive culture in sputum in three-quarters of cases. Previous studies comparing oropharyngeal cultures to bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cultures in children with CF demonstrated that oropharyngeal cultures had a positive predictive value of only 44%, but a negative predictive value of 95% in diagnosing lower airway P. aeruginosa infection [18]. Performing P. aeruginosa qPCR on culture negative throat swabs may further improve the diagnosis of lower airway infection in young children with CF who are unable to produce sputum, but this approach will still need to be validated by comparative studies employing BAL fluid samples. Unfortunately, using confirmatory induced sputum samples as suggested by Boutin et al., may produce unreliable results as these specimens are poor predictors of lower airway pathogens cultured from BAL specimens in young children with CF [19]. Finally, it is yet to be determined whether an earlier diagnosis of P. aeruginosa infection leads to improved eradication success rates and superior clinical outcomes.

In summary, the recent studies by Heltshe et al. and Boutin et al. further our understanding of how chronic P. aeruginosa infection develops in CF and how to better recognize it [7,12]. Ultimately, prevention of chronic P. aeruginosa infection and its deleterious effects on lung function and survival is the goal.

Original article in Journal of Cystic Fibrosis here.

Potential Therapy for Infections in CF Gets Patent

AB569Arch Biopartners’ treatment candidate for bacterial infections in patients with cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other respiratory conditions, has received a U.S. patent.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued patent 9,925,206 to the University of Cincinnati, which granted Arch Biopartners an exclusive commercial license on all patents related to AB569. The inventor is Daniel Hassett, PhD, a principal scientist at Arch and professor at the University of Cincinnati College Of Medicine.

“This patent issuance, which protects the composition of AB569, gives Arch a stronger commercial position to pursue treating not just CF patients, but also the millions of other patients that have chronic antibiotic resistant lung infections including those with COPD,” Richard Muruve, CEO of Arch, said in a press release. “It also opens the door for Arch to develop treatments for many other indications where antibiotic resistance is a problem, such as urinary tract infections and wound care.”

Bacterial infections in the lungs are a serious problem in patients with CF, COPD, or ventilator-associated pneumonia. Cystic fibrosis patients are susceptible to bacterial respiratory infections as a result of abnormal mucus production in the lungs and airways.

In particular, the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa) affects most adult CF patients and 40 percent of CF children ages 6 to 10. The mucoid form of P. aeruginosa is highly resistant to conventional antibiotics and immune-mediated killing. It causes a rapid decline in lung function and a poor overall clinical prognosis.

Antibiotic use in the treatment of CF and COPD patients with chronic bacterial respiratory infections is increasing, which correlates with a higher prevalence of antibiotic-resistant strains.

AB569 is a non-antibiotic therapy made of sodium nitrite and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), two compounds approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human use. The treatment has a different mechanism of action from antibiotics that may increase effectiveness, Arch believes.

“AB569 has two active ingredients that produce a dramatic and synergistic effect at killing many antibiotic resistant bacteria including Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa), which commonly causes severe chronic infections in the lungs of cystic fibrosis (CF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients,” Hassett said. “AB569 has the potential to make a significant medical impact on treating infection where traditional antibiotics fail.”

In preclinical experiments, the therapy showed significant ability to kill several types of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria.

The safety and pharmacokinetics of a single administration of nebulized AB569 are now being evaluated in a Phase 1 clinical trial with up to 25 healthy volunteers at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center (CVAMC). Pharmacokinetics refers to how a drug is absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and expelled by the body. Enrollment of volunteers started in February.

If the Phase 1 study provides positive results, the company plans to start a Phase 2 trial to test the effectiveness of AB569 in the treatment of chronic lung infections caused by P. aeruginosa and other bacterial pathogens in CF and/or COPD patients.

AB569 previously received orphan drug status from the FDA for the treatment of CF patients infected with P. aeruginosa, and orphan medicinal product designation from the European Medicines Agency.

For original article, click here.

Study Links CF Patients’ Airway Bacteria with Disease Outcomes

By: Diogo Pinto

Researchers have linked variations in the mix of microorganisms in cystic fibrosis patients’ airways to their disease outcomes.

The findings in the journal PLOS One were in an article titled “Fluctuations in airway bacterial communities associated with clinical states and disease stages in cystic fibrosis.

CF patients typically have particular strains of bacterial and fungus in their airways. The usual bacteria suspects include PseudomonasAchromobacterBurkholderiaHaemophilusStaphylococcus, and Stenotrophomonas.

Other bacteria and fungi also inhabit CF patients’ airways, however. These include anaerobic species that do not need oxygen to grow and spread.

Not only do the microbial communities in CF patients’ airways vary by type of microorganism, but also in the relative abundance of each species.

Researchers decide to see if the prevalence and relative abundance of typical CF pathogens and anaerobic microorganisms play a role in the severity of patients’ disease and their lung function.

They analyzed 631 sputum samples collected over 10 years from 111 patients.

The team classified the stage of patients’ disease on the basis of their lung function scores. The yardstick they used was forced expiratory volume in one second, or FEV1. They considered an early stage of the disease to be an FEV1 score higher than 70, an intermediate stage a score of 40 to 70, and an advanced stage a score lower than 40.

Researchers classified disease aggressiveness — mild, moderate or severe — on the basis of change in FEV1 relative to age.

They discovered a link between variations in the prevalance of the six typical CF pathogens, plus nine anaerobic species, and changes in a patient’s disease stage and lung function.

To continue reading, click here. 

Antibiotic resistance evolution of Pseudomonas aeruginosain cystic fibrosis patients

By Francesca Lucca, Margherita Guarnieri, Mirco Ros, Giovanni Muffato, Roberto Rigoli, and Liviana Da Dalt

Below is a study hoping to define and answer the questions of Pseudomonas aeruginosain, its evolution and the resistance from different antibiotics. The study took place between 2010-2013. Though the study may have some time clauses I believe there are some strong findings for the CF community moving forward.
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Introduction

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is the predominant pathogen responsible of chronic colonization of the airways in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. There are few European data about antibiotic susceptibility evolution of P aeruginosa in CF patients.

Objectives

The aim of this study is to evaluate the evolution of antibiotic resistance in the period 2010‐2013 in CF patients chronically colonized by P aeruginosa and to highlight the characteristics of this evolution in patients younger than 20 years.

Methods

Clinical and microbiological data were extracted from two electronic databases and analyzed. Antibiotic resistance was defined according to European Committee of Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing for levofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, meropenem, amikacin and ceftazidime. The between‐group comparison was drawn with the Chi‐square test for proportions, with the T‐test for unpaired samples for normally distributed data and with Mann‐Whitney test for non‐normally distributed data. Significancy was defined by P < .05.

Results

Fifty‐seven CF patients, including thirteen subjects aged less than 20 years, were enrolled. P.. aeruginosa antibiotic sensitivity decreased significantly for fluoroquinolones, mainly in patients aged <20 years, while it increased for amikacin and colistin. The analysis of minimum inhibitory concentration confirmed these trends. In pediatric patients treated with more than three antibiotic cycles per year, greater resistance was found, except for amikacin and colistin.

Conclusion

An evolution in P aeruginosa antibiotic resistances is observed in the 4‐year period studied. Responsible and informed use of antibiotics is mandatory in CF.
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Read the whole clinical journal here. 

Antibiotic resistance evolution of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in cystic fibrosis patients (2010‐2013) Francesca Lucca,Margherita Guarnieri,Mirco Ros,Giovanna Muffato,Roberto Rigoli,Liviana Da Dalt. First published: 1 April 2018. https://doi.org/10.1111/crj.12787

Therapy for Reducing P. Aeruginosa Lung Infections Planned Phase 1 Trial

Arch Biopartners recently completed a good manufacturing practice (GMP) production campaign for AB569, a potential inhalation treatment for antibiotic-resistant bacterial lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis (CF) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions. The campaign, intended to ensure the quality of the investigative therapy, was directed by Dalton Pharma Services.

AB569 is composed of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) and sodium nitrite, two compounds approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in people. AB569 can be administered alone or in combination with other compounds to treat multi-drug resistant bacterial infections that can cause reduced lung function.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is one of the most common bacterial infections in patients with respiratory diseases, including CF, COPD, and pneumonia.

In preclinical studies, AB569 was shown to be capable of killing drug-resistant bacteria like P. aeruginosa and other common pathogens associated with chronic lung infections.

The company also announced that a Phase 1 clinical trial to investigate the safety and pharmacokinetic profile of AB569, planned to start in January, will be conducted at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center (CVAMC). According to an Arch Biopartners press release, Ralph Panos, chief of medicine at CVAMC, will lead the trial.

Three escalating doses of nebulized AB569 will be used to evaluate tolerance to the treatment in about 25 healthy volunteers. Each will be given a single administration of nebulized AB569  to characterize the pharmacokinetic profile of plasma nitrite and nitrate metabolites, exhaled nitric oxide, and circulating hemoglobin.

Pharmacokinetics studies how a drug is absorbed, distributed and metabolized in, and expelled by, the body.

Should the Phase 1 trial in volunteers be successful, Arch Biopartners plans to move its AB569 program into a Phase 2 trial to test its effectiveness in treating chronic P.aeruginosa infections in COPD patients.

AB569 received orphan drug status by the FDA in November 2015 as a potential treatment of P. aeruginosa lung infections in CF patients. Orphan drug status is given to investigative medicines intended for people with rare diseases to speed their development and testing.

Original article: https://cysticfibrosisnewstoday.com/2017/12/12/arch-biopartners-readies-ab569-potential-treatment-for-cf-copd-lung-infections-for-phase-1-trial/

A Breath of Fresh Air for Biotechs Working on Cystic Fibrosis Therapies

Researchers from the University of Zurich have determined the structure of a chloride channel, which could be a target for new drugs to treat cystic fibrosis.

Researchers at the University of Zurich have found a new target for future cystic fibrosis treatments. The study, published in Nature, has uncovered the structure of a protein that could help to correct the mechanism underlying the buildup of sticky mucus in patients’ lungs. This could give rise to a new wave of therapeutics for the condition, which at the moment lacks disease-modifying treatments.

Cystic fibrosis is a severe genetic disease affecting the lungs, for which there is currently no cure. It is caused by a malfunctioning chloride channel, CFTR, which prevents the secretion of chloride by cells, leading to the production of thick, sticky mucus in the lung. The condition affects around 70,000 people worldwide, who suffer from chronic infections and require daily physiotherapy.

However, one potential approach to treat cystic fibrosis is to activate the calcium-activated chloride channel, TMEM16A, as an alternative route for chloride efflux. As TMEM16A is located within the same epithelium as CFTR, its activation could rehydrate the mucus layer. The research group used cryo-electron microscopy to decipher the structure of TMEM16A, which is part of a protein family that facilitates the flow of negatively charged ions or lipids across the cell membrane.

The changes that occur in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients.

TMEM16A is found in many of our organs, playing a key role in muscle contraction and pain perception, as well as in the lungs. It forms an hourglass-shaped protein-enclosed channel, which when bound by positively charged calcium ions, opens to let chloride ions to pass through the membrane.

Current treatments for cystic fibrosis include bronchodilators, mucus thinners, antibiotics, and physiotherapy, which only control symptoms. However, biotechs around Europe are beginning to make progress, with ProQR completing a Phase Ib trial and Galapagos and Abbvie’s triple combination therapy entering Phase I. Antabio has also received €7.6M from CARB-X to develop a new antibiotic against Pseudomonas infections.

The identification of a new target provides patients and biotechs alike with renewed hope of new and effective cystic fibrosis treatments, or even a cure. It will be interesting to see whether small molecules or gene therapy specialists could take advantage of this information.

Original article: https://labiotech.eu/cystic-fibrosis-treatment-target/