Chronic disease breakthrough found in Israeli lab- study

Researchers from Bnai Zion Medical Center and Technion developed a molecule called that could help with treatment of chronic diseases like lupus and asthma.

An inhaler used to treat asthma (photo credit: NIAID/FLICKR)
An inhaler used to treat asthma
(photo credit: NIAID/FLICKR)

The Bnai Zion Medical Center in Haifa, in collaboration with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, has found an innovative therapeutic approach to immune health, which could lead to treatment of a variety of chronic diseases including lupus and asthma, the center announced this week. 

What does "semaphorin 3A" do?

Imbalance in the immune system’s activity can lead to severe cases of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The new Israeli research developed a novel molecule called "semaphorin 3A" which the team said it is effective in maintaining the balance of the immune system (homeostasis). When this balance is disturbed – for example, in autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus) or in an inflammatory disease (asthma for example) – the level of production and secretion of semaphorin decreases significantly.

The low level of semaphorin allows for the increase of the inflammatory response, and ongoing damage to various tissues. When semaphorin is artificially reintroduced into the immune system cultures of patients with these diseases, their increased function and excessive cytokine secretion are reduced and the immune system balance returns to normal.

 Prof. Zahava Vadasz, Director of the Proteomics Unit and Asst. CEO of Bnai Zion Medical Center (credit: Micha Brickman) Prof. Zahava Vadasz, Director of the Proteomics Unit and Asst. CEO of Bnai Zion Medical Center (credit: Micha Brickman)

Semaphorin's role in the study and long-term implications 

In the study, when semaphorin was injected into mice mimicking lupus, their condition improved significantly: kidney damage was avoided (which is one of the most severe consequences of this disease).In the case of asthma,  the inflammation in the airways was prevented, including damage to blood vessels that characterizes inflammatory processes.

Chronic diseases often start at a young age and cause considerable suffering to patients, decreasing quality of life. There are many treatments today – including traditional ones such as steroids and cytotoxic drugs – but these have multiple side effects (obesity, bone marrow suppression and more). 

The Bnai Zion Medical Center celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Its researchers noted that while the discovery has important implications, which they hope will be used to treat humans, it remains in the initial stages of development for the production and development of a drug based on the semaphorin protein. During the development of the drug, the efficacy and safety of the protein will be tested further on mice models before being evaluated in humans.