Possible root cause of asthma found

London: In a major breakthrough that could lead to a cure for asthma within five years, researchers have found that a protein could be at the root of the condition.

The study also revealed that a drug originally designed to treat the bone disease osteoporosis could lead to new therapy for asthma.

The researchers found that a protein called calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) plays an important role in causing asthma. They used mouse models of asthma and human airway tissue from asthmatic and non-asthmatic people to reach the findings.

Crucially, the paper highlights the effectiveness of a class of drugs known as calcilytics in manipulating CaSR to reverse all symptoms associated with the condition.

“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 also potentially stop asthma from happening in the first place,” said principal investigator professor Daniela Riccardi from Cardiff University School of Biosciences in Britain.

Asthma affects nearly 300 million people worldwide. While it is well controlled in some people, around one-in-twelve patients respond poorly to current treatments.

“For the first time, we have found a link between airways inflammation, which can be caused by environmental triggers — such as allergens, cigarette smoke and car fumes — and airways twitchiness in allergic asthma,” Riccardi noted.

“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 said.

The study appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine.