Australian researchers have found the potential to create drugs that can block the caspase 8 protein, which helps produce nitric oxide. The drug will help improve the treatment of asthma, bowel disease, COVID-19 and other diseases caused by inflammatory cell death.

The study was conducted in collaboration with scientists from Monash University, the Australian National University, the Hudson Institute for Medical Research and the University of Cologne in Germany.

However, in a new discovery of great therapeutic significance, three researchers linked overproduction of nitric oxide to excessive cell death. While this is generally considered the key to the body’s immune response to infection, the team was able to demonstrate that uncontrolled cell death can also cause dangerous levels of inflammation in healthy organs and tissues.

According to Vince, the realization that nitric oxide is a “killer” of cells came as a surprise to scientists.

“Our research led us to the discovery that nitric oxide is the main driver of cell death,” said Vince.

Nitric oxide levels rose when immune cells sensed viral and pathogenic threats, he said. In other words, the more it is produced, the greater the chance of cell death.

Simpson noted that preliminary evidence that removal of nitric oxide in infection models stops cell death and tissue damage could be a potential drug use for caspase 8.

DNA editing technology helped the team create gene mutations to determine which ones promote nitric oxide production.

“The ability to understand and manipulate key genes could lead to exciting new treatments for disease,” Feltham said.

The study was conducted in collaboration with scientists from Monash University, the Australian National University, the Hudson Institute for Medical Research and the University of Cologne in Germany.