JOURNAL ARTICLE

New treatments addressing the pathophysiology of hereditary angioedema

Alvin E Davis
Clinical and Molecular Allergy: CMA 2008, 6: 2
18410689
Hereditary angioedema is a serious medical condition caused by a deficiency of C1-inhibitor. The condition is the result of a defect in the gene controlling the synthesis of C1-inhibitor, which regulates the activity of a number of plasma cascade systems. Although the prevalence of hereditary angioedema is low - between 1:10,000 to 1:50,000 - the condition can result in considerable pain, debilitation, reduced quality of life, and even death in those afflicted. Hereditary angioedema presents clinically as cutaneous swelling of the extremities, face, genitals, and trunk, or painful swelling of the gastrointestinal mucosa. Angioedema of the upper airways is extremely serious and has resulted in death by asphyxiation.Subnormal levels of C1-inhibitor are associated with the inappropriate activation of a number of pathways - including, in particular, the complement and contact systems, and to some extent, the fibrinolysis and coagulation systems.Current findings indicate bradykinin, a product of contact system activation, as the primary mediator of angioedema in patients with C1-inhibitor deficiency. However, other systems may play a role in bradykinin's rapid and excessive generation by depleting available levels of C1-inhibitor.There are currently no effective therapies in the United States to treat acute attacks of hereditary angioedema, and currently available agents used to treat hereditary angioedema prophylactically are suboptimal. Five new agents are, however, in Phase III development. Three of these agents replace C1-inhibitor, directly addressing the underlying cause of hereditary angioedema and re-establishing regulatory control of all pathways and proteases involved in its pathogenesis. These agents include a nano-filtered C1-inhibitor replacement therapy, a pasteurized C1-inhibitor, and a recombinant C1-inhibitor isolated from the milk of transgenic rabbits. All C1-inhibitors are being investigated for acute angioedema attacks; the nano-filtered C1-inhibitor is also being investigated for prophylaxis of attacks. The other two agents, a kallikrein inhibitor and a bradykinin receptor-2 antagonist, target contact system components that are mediators of vascular permeability. These mediators are formed by contact system activation as a result of C1-inhibitor consumption.

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