Dr. Michael Croft, a researcher at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, and colleagues have discovered a molecule's previously unknown role as a major trigger for airway remodeling, which impairs lung function, making the molecule a promising therapeutic target for chronic asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and several other lung conditions. A scientific paper on Dr. Croft's finding was published online on April 17, 2011, in Nature Medicine. The finding marks Dr. Croft's second major discovery with therapeutic potential for asthma. His previous finding, of a novel molecular mechanism driving lung inflammation, is the basis for a potential asthma treatment now in Phase II human clinical trials. "Dr. Croft's continued efforts to uncover the cellular pathways influencing asthma and other lung disorders have produced remarkable results," said Dr. Mitchell Kronenberg, La Jolla Institute president and chief scientific officer. "He is a researcher of the highest caliber and I believe his discoveries will someday improve the lives of millions of people around the world." In the Nature Medicine paper entitled, "The tumor necrosis factor family member LIGHT is a target for asthmatic airway remodeling," Dr. Croft and colleagues showed that blocking LIGHT's interactions with its two receptors significantly inhibited the process of airway remodeling in mouse models of chronic asthma. Airway remodeling refers to inflammation-fueled structural changes in the lungs, including fibrosis, which can occur over time and result in declining lung function that strongly contributes to conditions such as COPD, chronic asthma, and several other respiratory disorders. Asthma affects more than 20 million Americans, including nine million children, and is the third-ranking cause of hospitalization among U.S.
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