May 11, 1998 DENVER--Researchers at National Jewish Medical and Research Center are performing clinical trials and basic science research on laboratory-made IL-4 receptors, which have been shown to successfully bind to IL-4 in humans. National Jewish researchers are currently testing an inhaled form of the IL-4 receptor.
When an allergen enters the body it stimulates production of the gene IL-4. When IL-4 attaches to an IL-4 receptor, found on cells in the body, this contact produces IgE. IgE causes the immune system to respond in the form of a runny nose, watery eyes and other symptoms. In many people with asthma, the IL-4 receptor is highly sensitive, which causes allergic asthma.
"This goes at the source of allergies. We're not treating symptoms, we're eliminating disease," said Larry Borish, M.D., a physician researcher in the National Jewish Department of Medicine.
The inhaled IL-4 receptor doesn't stop the body's production of IL-4. Instead the inhaled IL-4 receptor "soaks up" the body's available IL-4 by chemically binding to it before it reaches and activates the IL-4 receptor on the surface of the cell. "It is like a sponge," Dr. Borish said.
In early clinical trials in people with asthma, the artificial IL-4 receptor has had no side effects, remained in the body for 8 days and kept allergy symptoms from occurring. In addition, the use of an inhaled IL-4 receptor reduced the use of other asthma medications, such as beta-agonists and inhaled corticosteroids.
The latest clinical trial using inhaled IL-4 receptors currently is accepting new patients. Patients will receive one dose of IL-4 every week for 12 weeks. Patients must live in the Denver metropolitan area. For information on enrolling in the study, call (303) 398-1911.
Artificial IL-4 receptors could be widely available as a treatment option in two to three years.
National Jewish researchers have done many of the preliminary studies on IL-4 showing that IL-4 is a major gene that causes allergies and that mice without IL-4 genes don't get asthma.
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