Asthma could be cured in five years now that scientists have found the ‘switch’ that can turn off triggers that cause the condition in tens of millions of people worldwide.
Researchers at UK’s Cardiff University and King’s College London identified which cells cause the airways to narrow when exposed to irritants like pollution. Experiments showed that calcium-sensing receptor cells – which detect changes in the environment – become overstimulated in asthmatics, causing airway twitching and inflammation.
Drugs already exist that can deactivate those cells. They are known as calcilytics and are used to treat people with osteoporosis. Researchers found that, when the drug is inhaled, it deactivates the cells and stops all symptoms.
“This hugely exciting discovery enables us, for the first time, to tackle the underlying causes of asthma symptoms,” said Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK. “If this research proves successful we may be just a few years away from a new treatment.”
Scientists are hopeful that patients can take the drug to prevent asthma attacks before they start – ending the need to constantly carry an inhaler to end symptoms once an attack has started.
Furthermore, Walker added, “Five percent of people with asthma don’t respond to current treatments, so research breakthroughs could be life-changing for hundreds of thousands of people.”
The discovery could also lead to new treatments for chronic bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease that kills tens of millions of people every year – and for which there currently is no cure.
Researchers say if clinical trials start soon, and it can be proven that calcilytics are safe when administered directly to the human lung, the treatment that could effectively cure asthma would be available in the next 5 years.
The research, funded by Asthma UK, the Cardiff Partnership Fund, and a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council award, was published in the Science Translational Medicine journal in April.
(WATCH the Cardiff University video below) – Photo by Kathryn Doran, CC
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