The surface model of the Interleukin-1 signalling molecule used in the Cardiff University research Image Credit: Shutterstock

Blocking a certain signalling molecule can alleviate symptoms for breathing problems such as asthma as well as lead to improved treatments, a study conducted by researchers at Cardiff University in the UK showed.

The findings revealed that restricting the production of Interleukin 1 (IL-1) plays a central role in the regulation of immune and inflammatory responses to infections and could ease symptoms such as mucus, swelling and constriction of the airways in the lungs.

“We found that by adding signalling molecule IL-1 using an experimental model of allergic asthma, the symptoms would worsen dramatically,” says lead researcher Stephan Caucheteux from Cardiff University.

The allergic immune response, which triggers the symptoms of asthma, is a complex process that starts with the over-activation of a certain white blood cell, the allergen-specific helper T cells type 2, or Th2 cells, which plays an important role in the immune system.

“The finding that IL-1 is involved in regulating the balance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory Th2 cells has not only significantly enhanced our basic knowledge on T cell biology but also provided a potentially effective and novel strategy to treat asthma,” says Jeff Zhu, one of the researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US.