In a first, scientists claim to have found the root cause of asthma, a breakthrough which could pave the way for a new treatment for the disorder within five years.
Researchers described the previously unproven role of the calcium sensing receptor (CaSR) in causing asthma, a disease which affects 300 million people worldwide.
The team used mouse models of asthma and human airway tissue from asthmatic and non-asthmatic people to reach their findings.
Researchers also highlight the effectiveness of a class of drugs known as calcilytics in manipulating CaSR to reverse all symptoms associated with the condition.
These symptoms include airway narrowing, airway twitchiness and inflammation – all of which contribute to increased breathing difficulty.
“Our findings are incredibly exciting,” said principal investigator, Professor Daniela Riccardi, from Cardiff University School of Biosciences.
“For the first time we have found a link airways inflammation, which can be caused by environmental triggers – such as allergens, cigarette smoke and car fumes â€“ and airways twitchiness in allergic asthma,” said Riccardi.
“Our paper shows how these triggers release chemicals that activate CaSR in airway tissue and drive asthma symptoms like airway twitchiness, inflammation, and narrowing. Using calcilytics, nebulised directly into the lungs, we show that it is possible to deactivate CaSR and prevent all of these symptoms,” Riccardi added.
Riccardi and her collaborators are now seeking funding to determine the efficacy of calcilytic drugs in treating asthmas that are especially difficult to treat, particularly steroid-resistant and influenza-exacerbated asthma, and to test these drugs in patients with asthma.
The latest breakthrough has provided researchers with the unique opportunity to re-purpose these drugs, potentially accelerating the time it takes for them to be approved for use asthma patients.
“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,” Riccardi said.
The study was published in Science Translational Medicine journal.