It is possible that the world could see a cure for asthma, if researchers manage to use a drug that currently treats people for brittle bones. If this is established, then a cure for asthma may be in place within five years.
Asthma affects over 300 million people worldwide, but now an international team of scientists believe they have discovered the over-riding cause for this ailment, and also how to stop it.
They have described these findings as ‘incredibly exciting’, as reported in The Daily Telegraph.
Scientists have shown that it is a protein in the cell walls which causes the airways to narrow.
The research has determined that in asthmatics, when any irritant, such as pollen or pollution is inhaled, the receptor cells that sense calcium over-react. This leads to the airways narrowing, which can be potentially dangerous.
The scientists discovered that the drugs used to treat osteoporosis, called calcilytics, stopped the airways from narrowing. If these drugs are shown to be safe to use on asthmatics, they could also be utilised for people who are suffering from other bronchial diseases, such as chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
One of the researchers, Professor Daniela Riccardi, from Cardiff University School of Biosciences, said: “If we can prove that calcilytics are safe when administered directly to the lung in people, then in five years we could be in a position to treat patients and potentially stop asthma from happening in the first place.”
So far the drugs have only been tested on the airway tissues of mice and humans.
Asthma UK helped pay for the research and were naturally very excited about the early results.
Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said: “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. If this research proves successful we may be just a few years away from a new treatment for asthma, and we urgently need further investment to take it further through clinical trials.”
The scientists at Cardiff University worked with researchers at King’s College London and the Myo Clinic in Minnesota, USA.
Their findings were published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.