Female Hormone Drug Could Help Treat Asthma

Relaxin, a hormone produced during childbirth, is anti-fibrotic—a characteristic that could help treat lungs damaged by asthma.

AsianScientist (May 10, 2016) – A group of scientists from Monash University in Australia may have found a compound that can reverse the damage caused by asthma, which afflicts an estimated 334 million people around the world. Their findings were published in Chemical Science.

Relaxin is the hormone that aids women to give birth. Produced by the ovaries during pregnancy, it ensures that the pelvic ligaments soften for a brief time—long enough to push the baby out. Key to this process is Relaxin’s ability to break down collagen, which is also the main characteristic of scar tissue or fibrosis.

Fibrosis-related diseases account for up to 45 percent of deaths globally, with fibrotic scaring present in everything from thickened arteries in heart disease to damaged lung walls in asthma. While there are some therapies available that counter the build-up of fibrosis, they only delay disease progression. What is needed is a drug that can safely and cheaply reverse the scar tissue build-up in these diseases.

Scientists have long believed Relaxin could be a way to reverse those diseases that are caused by the build-up of collagen—acting on, say, scarred heart tissue in the same way it does in the pelvic muscle of women about to give birth.

While clinical trials into using a recombinant drug-based form of the Relaxin hormone to treat acute heart failure patients are currently underway, there are concerns over the synthetic hormone being used. It is expensive and laborious to produce as it has a two-chain structure, like insulin.

In the present study, researchers developed and evaluated a single-chain form of Relaxin that eliminates all these concerns, being cheap to produce and safe. The single-chain Relaxin, currently under a provisional patent application, was produced by Dr. Akhter Hossain, head of the Insulin Peptide Laboratory.

According to co-lead author Associate Professor Chrishan Samuel, the discovery of this “new type” of Relaxin is significant to the devleopment of potential treatment of fibrosis (scar tissue) -related diseases.

The scientists tested the modified Relaxin hormone in animal models of heart failure and asthma. To their surprise, they found that administering the new hormone intranasally to animals with chronic allergic airways disease (equivalent to asthma in humans) completely reversed established disease after nine weeks of onset.

In addition, the scientists showed that unlike “normal” Relaxin, the new version was easier to modify to improve its drug-inducing effects.

“The modified Relaxin appears to be safe, it is cheap to manufacture and it appears to have significant anti-fibrotic capabilities, which could have major implications for disease treatment,” Samuel said.

The article can be found at: Hossain et al. (2016) A Single-Chain Derivative of the Relaxin Hormone is a Functionally Selective Agonist of the G Protein-Coupled Receptor, RXFP1.


Source: Monash University; Photo: Shutterstock.
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