Bitter taste receptors hold key to treating asthma

Bitter taste receptors hold key to treating asthma
Credit: Thinkstock

One in nine Australians, among more than 300 million people worldwide, suffer from asthma. They experience a wide range of debilitating, even life-threatening respiratory symptoms from a disease that can be controlled but not cured.

New research led by Dr Pawan Sharma from the UTS School of Life Sciences and The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research offers hope to asthmatics who need more effective, long-term treatment plans.

Dr Sharma, and a team of American researchers, investigated whether the activation of could mitigate the features of in mice.

They found the bitter substances not only reduced common symptoms of the disease in mice, but also prevented allergic inflammation and structural changes to the airways.

"We do not have an effective anti-asthma therapy that targets disease progression. Our current research on taste receptors is crucial in identifying new classes of drugs that can be an effective asthma treatment option in future," Dr Sharma said.

The research team induced mice with and tested the effects of chloroquine and quinine on various features of the disease. Chloroquine and quinine are substances that stimulate bitter taste receptors. Both are used as anti-malaria drugs and as flavouring for tonic water.

"We used both in vitro and in vivo approaches using human airway cells and mouse models of asthma to study the effectiveness of novel bitter compounds," Dr Sharma said.

The research team discovered chloroquine and quinine prevented development of asthma and reversed key disease symptoms in .

In 2015, a report commissioned by Asthma Australia and the National Asthma Council found that the disease is costing the country $27.9 billion per annum. Of this, $24.7 billion accounts for "burden of " costs, that is, spending associated with the suffering and premature deaths experienced by asthmatics. While current anti-asthma medication provides immediate relief, it does not deter structural changes to the airways, inflammation and mucus production.

Dr Sharma is now preparing to collaborate with US researchers to synthesise new bitter compounds that may be developed as inhaled therapy for humans.

Explore further

Asthma in many adolescents is not an allergic disease

More information: Pawan Sharma et al. Bitter Taste Receptor Agonists Mitigate Features of Allergic Asthma in Mice, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/srep46166
Journal information: Scientific Reports

Citation: Bitter taste receptors hold key to treating asthma (2017, April 27) retrieved 14 October 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more