Starting with khella, a traditional remedy for asthma, Altounyan discovered in 1965 that khella’s active ingredient was khellin. He eventually produced a safer chemical based on khellin, sodium cromoglycate. This was later marketed as Intal by Fisons Pharmaceuticals, which was taken over by Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, who in turn were acquired into Aventisand sanofi-aventis. Prior to the RPR takeover, the R&D element of Fisons was sold to Astra, making it now part of AstraZeneca. Sodium cromoglycate was the first clinically utilised mast cell stabiliser. The mast cell plays a key role in allergic and asthmatic inflammation. Mast cells contain powerful inflammatory mediators which when released lead to inflammation and bronchoconstriction of the airway. Sodium cromoglycate stabilises the mast cell thereby preventing the release of the mediators.
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