Asthma affects almost 300 million people in the world and while it is well handled by some people, around one-in-twelve of those who suffer respond poorly to actual treatments. In an important breakthrough that could pave the way for a cure for asthma within a few years, scientists have discovered that a protein could be causing the condition. The research also revealed that a treatment originally designed to treat osteoporosis could lead to a new therapy asthma.
University researchers published their results in Science Translational Medicine journal. The team was working with scientists at King’s College London and the Mayo Clinic (USA) and managed to prove the role of the calcium sensing receptor in causing asthma, which is affecting more 300 million people worldwide.
The scientists found that a protein named calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) has an important role in developing asthma. They used mouse asthma and human tissue from asthmatic people and non-asthmatics to reach the discovery. The paper explains the effectiveness of a class of treatment like calcilytics in manipulating calcium-sensing receptor to reverse all the symptoms of the condition.
“Our findings are incredibly exciting. For the first time we have found a link airways inflammation, which can be caused by environmental triggers, like cigarette smoke, allergens and car fumes, but also airways twitchiness in allergic asthma,” said the principal investigator, Professor Daniela Riccardi, from the School of Biosciences.
The research shows how these start a release of chemicals that activate CaSR and drive asthma symptoms like airway inflammation and narrowing. Using calcilytics, administrated directly into the lungs, the scientists revealed that it is possible to prevent all of these symptoms.
If the experts can prove that calcilytics are not dangerous when inserted directly to the lung in humans, then in approximately five years researchers could be in a position to cure patients and also potentially stop asthma from occurring.
Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK, explained: “This hugely exciting discovery enables us, for the first time, to tackle the underlying causes of asthma symptoms. Five per cent of people with asthma don’t respond to current treatments so research breakthroughs could be life changing for hundreds of thousands of people”.
Professor Paul Kemp, who co-authored the study, said the identification of CaSR in airway tissue is the first step in finding a potential treatment of other inflammatory lung diseases.
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