Researchers have discovered that a drug currently being tested as a potential cancer treatment could also be effective in treating asthma.
The drug, known as R-Roscovitine, has been found to help destroy eosinophils - cells of the immune system which may cause asthma symptoms to worsen.
Eosinophils are normally present in the lungs and airways where they fight off parasitic infection. But when their response becomes uncontrolled, they can damage cell lining the lungs resulting in conditions such as asthma.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have found that the drug can cause eosinophils to undergo apoptosis - a natural destruction process which removes unwanted cells from the body.
The researchers hope that this may eventually lead to alternative treatments for patients who do not respond to the usual steroid-based therapies for asthma.
Study leader Professor Adriano Rossi, from the university's Centre for Inflammation Research, said: "Steroids are commonly used to treat asthma but can have unwanted side-effects, while some asthma patients are also resistant to steroid treatment.
"It may well be that use of a drug, such as R-Roscovitine, or one that works in a similar way, could offer an alternative to steroids, or be used in conjunction with steroid treatment for asthma patients."
Findings are published in the journal FEBS Letters.