Resolvyx Experiment Shows Fish-Oil Derivative Tamps Down Asthma, Inflammation

Fish oil is good for you, we get it. Now we also know, thanks to scientists connected to Bedford, MA-based Resolvyx Pharmaceuticals, that if you give mice tiny doses of a fish oil derivative, you can suppress two specific proteins that play a role in asthma, and other inflammatory diseases.

Researchers at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that low doses of a compound known as a resolvin were able to tamp down inflammatory molecules Interleukin-23 and Interleukin-17 by more than 60 percent in mice, according to research published this week in Nature Immunology. The study, done in mice with asthma, found the drug was able to reduce the inflammation that restricts airways, even during peak inflammatory episodes, and helped the animals to breathe better than those that didn’t get the drug.

Asthma is a monster opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry, with an estimated 20 million patients in the U.S. who have various forms of the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet Jamie Nichols, Resolvyx’s executive vice president of corporate development, is careful not to pigeonhole the company’s drug as a potential asthma drug alone. The finding suggests it may also have potential for related diseases of an overactive immune system, like inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

“We need to prove this is useful in humans, and this paper makes it reasonable for asthma as a first shot,” Nichols says.

The finding paves the way for privately-held Resolvyx to start the first clinical trials of its drug, dubbed RvE1, in the first half of 2009, Nichols says. The first trial will enroll healthy volunteers on the tiniest of doses to make sure it’s safe, and then another early-stage trial will recruit about 30 to 40 patients with asthma. Patients will have their Interleukin-23 and Interleukin-17 levels monitored, and clinicians will also measure whether the drug helps patients breathe better, he said.

As David Stipp wrote for us last year, it’s conceivable that people can get the same resolvins from taking Omega-3 supplements or eating a diet rich in fish.

It’s not really practical, though, Nichols says, because the resolvin isolated by his company is 1,000 times more potent than what people can get from fish oil. The company’s chemists have found a way to synthesize the resolvin into a daily pill that delivers a low dose of a few milligrams of the active compound, Nichols says. Even though I live in the Northwest and like salmon as much as the next guy, the pill sounds a lot easier on the gullet than a daily fillet.

Trending on Xconomy