By Noelle Chorney
Inflammatory disease often causes chronic pain and debilitation. At worst, it can cause death.
A new drug developed by University of Saskatchewan immunologist John Gordon, however, promises improved treatment for inflammatory illnesses. These include arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as inflammation associated with life-threatening conditions such as cystic fibrosis and complications caused by heart attack and stroke.
“If G31P performs the way we think it will, the effects on human health will be remarkable,” Gordon says.
The protein G31P, for which the U of S owns the patent, shows excellent potential to target inflammatory responses more specifically than current corticosteroid treatment does, he says, noting corticosteroids stop inflammation but also cause several unwanted and potentially serious side effects.
G31P targets only proteins that activate a specific group of white blood cells known as neutrophils. Other immune system cells are able to continue responses that are safe and necessary to the patient’s health, while the ones that cause dangerous inflammation are controlled.
He notes the importance of blocking the activation of neutrophils with G31P. “Neutrophils are the primary cause of inflammation damage in a large number of cases,” Gordon says.
Animal testing has shown G31P to be effective in treating bacterial lung infections.
Further development of the drug, including clinical trials on humans, will take place in partnership with Pacgen Biopharmaceuticals Corporation, based in Vancouver. A grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research will aid in determining which ailments would be best to take to clinical trials.
One likely candidate is known as ischemia-reperfusion injury, a condition that occurs when toxins build up in cells cut off from blood supply. When the blood returns, those toxins rush into the blood system, causing inflammation. This complication is commonly related to organ transplants, heart attacks and strokes.
Aspiration pneumonia, in which stomach contents are regurgitated into the lungs during surgery, drug overdose or head trauma, is another potential candidate. Roughly 30 per cent of patients die from complications related to the condition.
Successful trials and introduction of the new drug could offer benefits to patients within the next five years, says Gordon.