A new molecule that blocked ion channels in lab cells could significantly reduce the cycles of airway inflammation and infection that eventually result in fatal destruction of the lungs in people with cystic fibrosis, according to new research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Treatments based on the new molecule — a protease inhibitor — could potentially prolong the lives of people with the life-limiting disorder.

Experiments on cell cultures in the lab showed that the molecule has the potential to improve airway hydration and significantly improve mucus clearance.

“This strategy could prevent the significant lung damage that results from chronic cycles of infection and inflammation, with potential impact on quality of life as well as life expectancy,” said senior author Dr Lorraine Martin, from Queen’s University School of Pharmacy.