Published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine, research led by the Centenary Institute and University of Technology Sydney has identified a small RNA molecule called microRNA-21 as a therapeutic target and its inhibition as a potential treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
In the pre-clinical study, the researchers reportedly found elevated levels of microRNA-21 in experimental COPD models involving mice.
The research shows that the use of a microRNA-21 inhibitor (antagomir-21) as a therapeutic treatment was shown to reduce inflammation and improve lung capacity and function in these models.
The researchers say antagomir-21 both reduces microRNA-21 expression and also suppresses the influx of inflammatory cells – macrophages, neutrophils and lymphocytes – into the airways and lungs.
Lung cytokine production, that amplifies inflammatory responses, was also inhibited through use of antagomir-21.
Professor Phil Hansbro, the study’s senior author and Director of the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation says that their findings offered up a completely new understanding of COPD.
“MicroRNA-21 is a common molecule that is expressed in most cells in the human body and regulates many critical biological processes,” says Professor Hansbro.
“Our findings demonstrate, however, that microRNA-21 levels increase when it comes to COPD.
“We believe that the development of new drugs that inhibit microRNA-21 may offer up an entirely new therapeutic approach when it comes to COPD treatment.”
Professor Hansbro says that the findings may address the limited effectiveness that current therapies have in controlling COPD or halting its progression.
“The development of effective COPD treatments has been hampered by a lack of understanding of the disease’s underlying mechanisms.
“Our data defines microRNA-21 as a novel therapeutic target and its inhibitors as a potential new treatment for this major, currently intractable lung disease,” he says.