The fatal genetic disease is being studied by researchers at Ryerson University in Canada, in partnership with The Hospital for Sick Children.
Studies are examining the way drugs that have undergone lab tests are interacting with the defective protein that causes the condition.
By looking at these protein interactions with drugs they hope to better understand how and why they work and create more effective drugs for cystic fibrosis.
The condition is caused by a defective gene. It normally produces a protein that regulates salt and water in the mucous, so those with cystic fibrosis have thicker, sticker mucous that can build up in the organs. Lung infections, breathing difficulties and problems with digestion are common, and the condition is ultimately fatal.
Synthetic organic chemist Russell Viirre explains: “We’re looking at drugs that can interact with the defective protein, essentially restoring it to its native function.
“In other words, helping the defective protein behave like it’s supposed to.”
Fixing the problematic protein could eliminate the symptoms, he adds.
His team is looking at the structures of drugs that have never made it to human trials and modifying them slightly to examine the protein interactions. Further tests are then carried out at the hospital so the position and nature of interactions can be determined.
Ultimately, the research could mean more powerful and successful drug treatment for people with cystic fibrosis. A dozen drugs are being examined over the next five years.