A drug, cromolyn sodium, which is often used for the prevention of allergy symptoms and asthma has been found out to prevent liver disease and can reduce the need for transplants. This is according to new research published in the October 2016 edition of the scientific journal Hepatology.
The said study was done by a group of researchers at Baylor Scott & White Research Institute and the Central Texas Veteran’s Health Care System and Texas A&M Health Science Center. They discovered that cromolyn sodium effectually blocked a sequence of cells that triggered liver scarring (known as fibrosis), which in developed cases can lead to cirrhosis.
This discovery might affect patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a chronic sickness that damages bile ducts and leads to severe liver injury. The disease has no powerful treatments and often leaves sufferers with few choices beyond a liver transplant.
Histamine Blockade By Cromolyn
The study evaluated mast cells (MCs), which are known to infiltrate and multiply after liver injury and release histamine, which factors fibrosis. Utilising a model that mimics human PSC, researchers observed that the drug effectively blocked histamine, which further decreased fibrosis.
According to Heather L. Bradley-Francis, Ph.D., an investigator at the Digestive Disease Research Center (DDRC) at Baylor Scott & White Health, We have been examining mast cells for a number of years in my lab and found that they become more prominent and active during disease, so the overall goal of my research is to find drugs to target mast cells and render them inactive. This particular study was a direct outgrowth of previous published work involving the same drug for bile duct damage and liver cancer. We were pleasantly surprised to find that our data and results matched what we had hypothesized about the drug’s effect on PSC, based on that previous work.
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
PSC, a condition that causes swelling and scarring within the liver because of short- injury or long-term damage such as in alcohol abuse typically affects persons in their 30s or 40s. Soon, the disease can lead to liver failure, infections or tumors. According to Gianfranco Alpini, PhD, director of the DDRC at Baylor Scott & White, This paper is very important and opens new avenues for the treatment of cholangiopathies. Given the limited treatment options for PSC patients, we are thrilled with these study insights.
If more studies supports the study’s preliminary findings, investigators see a future where patients could be given the cromolyn sodium drug, which can be used to treat the autoimmune disorder irritable bowel syndrome, for it's histamine-blocking to avoid the progression of fibrosis. That ultimately could result in fewer liver transplants — and possibly shorter transplant waitlists.
According to Dr. Francis, If you base it off these studies, the possibility of reducing or preventing fibrosis in patients could be very high. We need to perform additional experiments to ensure that we are giving a dose that would be tolerable to humans.
She further added, We are still very much involved in this work, and I’m optimistic about the future of research and the potential advances that will be made by integrating basic science with clinical research. My lab has a number of studies that are ongoing right now to identify ways to target mast cells in diseases like PSC, but also in other chronic liver problems like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Both of the grants that fund my lab examine the role that mast cells play during different liver pathologies and how mast cells interact with other resident liver cells, so we have a long road ahead to work on better understanding these mechanisms.