Asthma could be cured within five years after scientists discovered what causes the condition and how to switch it off.
In a breakthrough which could change the lives of Britain’s five million sufferers, researchers at Cardiff University and Kings College London identified which cells cause the airways to narrow when triggered by irritants like pollution.
Crucially, drugs already exist which can deactivate the cells. They are known as calcilytics and are used to treat people with osteoporosis.
The scientists are hopeful that in the future asthmatics take the drug to prevent an attack ever happening and ending the need to constantly carry an inhaler.
“Our findings are incredibly exciting,” said Professor Daniela Riccardi, from Cardiff University School of Biosciences.
“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.”
Asthma is a debilitating long-term condition which can cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness. Although inhalers can manage the problem, some people do not respond to current treatments.
Scientists knew that asthma was caused by inflammation in the small tubes which carry air and out of the lungs, but did not know what was triggering it.
However experiments on mice and human airway tissue found that calcium sensing receptor (CaSR ) cells – which detect changes in the environment – go into overdrive in asthmatics, triggering airway twitching, inflammation, and narrowing.
But when calcilytic drugs are inhaled, it deactivates the cells and stops all symptoms.
Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK, who helped fund the research, 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.
“Asthma research is chronically underfunded; there have only been a handful of new treatments developed in the last 50 years so the importance of investment in research like this is absolutely essential.”
The Latest on: Calcilytics
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The Latest on: Calcilytics
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- Asthma Treatment's Significant Unmet Needs May be Addressed By Calcilytics, Says GBI Researchon November 22, 2016 at 1:00 am
Associate Analyst Callum Dew notes: "A number of studies have now begun to demonstrate the direct relationship between calcium sensing receptors (CaSR) inhibition - through the use of calcilytics - ...
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The drugs that disable these cells are called calcilytics, and they have long been available as a treatment for osteoporosis. Calcilytics can additionally eliminate asthma symptoms if they are ...
- Calcilytics for asthma reliefon April 23, 2015 at 11:02 am
CaSR activity also facilitates inflammatory cell infiltration into the lung (not shown). Calcilytics block the CaSR, and may represent an inhalable agent to treat asthma. IP 3, inositol ...
- Scientists Discover Source Of Asthma, New Drugs Could Be 5 Years Awayon April 23, 2015 at 3:10 am
According to the findings of the study, a class of drugs known as calcilytics affects the CaSR and reverses the reactions that cause asthmatic symptoms. Calcilytics were originally developed as a ...
- Scientists discover root cause of asthma and believe bone drug could be cureon April 22, 2015 at 5:01 pm
A class of drugs known as calcilytics – first created to treat the bone disease osteoporosis – have been found to reverse all symptoms associated with the debilitating respiratory condition. Around ...
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