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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Studying Asthma: You'll Be Impressed What Researchers Are Learning

Originally published at

Researchers are working overtime in their quest to find better treatment options for asthmatics. Here are some of the latest discoveries. We think you'll be impressed!

Key protein discovered.  Researchers at the University of Leipzig believe they found a “key molecule” responsible for allergic asthma. The molecule is called protein syndecan-4, and is found in the cell membrane of antigen presenting cells. The hope is further research in this regard will lead to better medicines or cures for allergies and asthma.  

Root cause of asthma discovered. Using mouse models of asthma and human airway tissue, researchers at Cardiff University believe the calcium sensing receptor (CaSR) is the "potential root cause of asthma."  

It was already known that asthma triggers release chemicals that activate sensory neuro airways leading to airway twitchiness, inflammation, and narrowing. This leads to asthma symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Missing was the link between triggers and inflammation. 

Activation of CaSR appears to be the missing link. They believe drugs already exist, called calcilytics, to manipulate CaSR proteins to reverse the asthma response. They believe this should prevent asthma symptoms, preventing the need for rescue inhalers. 

It appears the only thing standing in the way of this treatment option is funding for research. Once funding is locked down, researchers believe calcilitics may be an option for asthmatics in about five years. 

Asthma cells move.  Epithelial cells are the cells lining airways. Normal epithelial cells “are pentagon-shaped and are jammed -- they hardly move at all.”  Up until now researchers believed asthmatic epithelial cells were the same.  However, the results of a study conducted at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health show asthmatic epithelial cells are “unusually shaped and scramble around like there’s a fire drill going on.”  

Does the asthma process cause cells to become jammed, or does the jamming cause asthma? Hopefully, the quest to answer these questions will lead to better asthma wisdom and treatment. 

Source: Harvard Gazette: Asthma Cells Scramble Like ‘There’s a Fire Drill.’ (Check out this link to see asthma cells scramble)

Exercise key to good asthma control. Researchers in Montreal, Canada, studied 66 adults with poorly controlled asthma. They were divided into two groups: those who participated in supervised aerobic activities, and those who did not.

The results showed that those who exercised at least 30 minutes per day had better asthma control compared to those who failed to exercise. Dr. Salter might be smiling down upon us, as he was the first to recommend exercise to control asthma way back in 1860.

Asthma controller medicine safe for baby. Most asthma experts teach that the risks of uncontrolled asthma on a fetus are far greater than the risks of the medicines used to treat and control asthma. A study released in July, 2015, seems to confirm that asthma controller medicines are safe for baby.

Learning the impact of severe asthma. Severe asthma is a subtype of asthma that has been studied extensively in recent years. It’s a subtype of asthma that affects 5-15 percent of asthmatics.  It consists of airways that are chronically narrowed and less responsive to asthma controller medicines, like inhaled corticosteroids.

Results of a survey released in September showed the true impact of this disease on those who have it. Of 850 severe asthmatics in Europe surveyed, 25 percent reported symptoms on a daily basis, and 71 percent reported symptoms at least weekly. Likewise, 32 percent said it affected their social life, 23 percent said it affected their working life, 18 percent said it affected their family life, and 17 percent said it affected their sex life.

This spotlights the ongoing need to continue the quest to learn more about this asthma subtype. 

What can we take away from all this?  As an asthmatic myself, it’s neat to see that researchers are learning so much about our disease. If any of these can eliminate to carry rescue inhalers, that would be a major plus for asthmatics. We'll keep you posted as we learn more. In the meantime, the future for asthmatics looks bright.

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