German scientists design an inhaler that protects lungs against air pollution and expect it to be available as an inexpensive, over-the-counter product this year. Roselle Chen reports.
This new inhaler protects lungs against air pollution. It's also designed to prevent diseases such as asthma or lung cancer. German scientists say the inhaler provides a natural molecule called ectoine, originally found in bacteria in the Egyptian desert, which creates a stabilizing protection layer on the surface of the lung cells. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANDREAS BILSTEIN, BITOP CHIEF SALES OFFICER, SAYING: "You have to inhale once or twice a day and then if forms a so-called hydro, ectoine-hydro complex on the lung epithelium which protects against the damage by reducing the effects the pollution has onto the lungs and the lungs system. It reduces the inflammation in the lung and it protects from further damage." (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. KLAUS UNFRIED, LEIBNIZ RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE, SAYING: "Environmental particles induce inflammatory reactions which cannot be addressed correctly by the pharmaceuticals we have already in the market. Therefore I think we have a new and probably very important tool in our hand to have a therapeutic approach." Ranked as a medical device, and not a drug, the inhaler doesn't need large clinical trials to gain regulatory approval. It's expected to be available over the counter in Europe within months, costing around 20 dollars for a month's supply. The International Energy Agency says poor air quality kills 6.5 million people every year.