One of the silver linings to the fact that asthma has now reached epidemic proportions worldwide is that a lot of money is poured into research on asthma, its causes and its treatments. So, there are always new study reports being released. And as a result, treatment is moving forward at a steady pace. It's my dream that a cure for asthma will eventually be found. But we're not quite there yet.
Still, lots of encouraging work IS being done. So, let's take a look at some of the latest research:
The TRPA1 Protein Could Hold the Key to Preventing Asthma FlareUps
TRPA1 is a substance called an ion channel protein. It has previously been found in mice that TRPA1 controls sensitivity for irritants such as cigarette smoke and certain other chemicals that can trigger asthma. It has been found in airway nerve cells. And it is known to control pain and irritation and trigger coughing and sneezing.
The latest research found that mice who lacked the gene for TRPA1 had much less inflammation, mucus in the airways and bronchoconstriction, according to the study's lead author, Sven-Eric Jordt, who is an assistant professor of pharmacology at Yale School of Medicine.
Coincidentally, researchers found that when they used a drug called HC-030031 to reduce TRPA1-induced pain, it is also reduced asthma symptoms. So, these experts hope that by using this drug to block TRPA1, it may also reduce airway inflammation and its underlying problems.
Looks promising, but it's still too early to tell.
Update on Statins & Asthma
In April of this year, I reported on the promise of using statins to treat asthma. Although this research was preliminary, it showed some encouraging results. Now, there is more good news:
More research shows that because taking statins reduces the number of emergency visits for asthma patients, it also reduces health care costs signficantly. The original 6,574-patient study, conducted by researchers from Medco and Brigham and Women's Hospital, found that patients taking statins, drugs widely used for reducing cholesterol, were 33 percent less likely to have an asthma-related hospitalization or ER visit over the course of a year than patients not using a statin.
This resulted in 18 percent lower hospitalization costs and 43 percent lower emergency room costs. Over the 12-month study, hospitalization and ER-related costs for patients on inhaled corticosteroids but not taking statins were $1,354 compared with $1,123 for those who used statins in conjunction with their asthma therapy.
While the cost difference is fairly small on a per patient basis, given the large number of patients with asthma, projections show that cost savings could be as great as $33 million per year.
I'd say that's good news, wouldn't you?
Clues Behind the "Atopic March"
Experts have known for some time that kids who have eczema often go on to develop asthma down the road. But they haven't known exactly why, other than the fact that eczema, nasal allergies and asthma are all considered as a group of diseases signified by atopy, or allergic sensitivity.
Now, researchers out of the Washington University School of Medicine have found that a substance made by the damaged skin associated with eczema triggered asthma symptoms in mice. This substance is called thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) and is also found in the airways of people with asthma.
Researchers theorize that early treatment of eczema and blocking TSLP might stop asthma from developing in these children. However, this research has only been done with mice at this point, so more will be needed to establish a human link between TSLP production and asthma. Read more here.
These are just a few of the many studies being done on asthma. I think it's really exciting to see the things being discovered