Last week news about a "cure for asthma" was blasted all over social media. Several of my friends even sent me the link to the story. Thinking that the story must be "too good to be true" I did some additional digging.
The commotion centered around a study by led by Cardiff University in the UK that was published in February of this year by Science Translational Medicine. In the study the researchers used human airway tissue in mice to mimic the human airway. They found that manipulating calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) with drugs known as calcilytics reversed asthma symptoms.
Calcium-sensing receptors (CaSR) senses levels of calcium and regulates levels of parathyroid hormone to keep calcium levels in check. Researchers in this study found that asthma triggers also release chemicals that trigger CaSR in the tissues of the airway. The chemicals appear to be what causes the symptoms of airway twitchiness, inflammation, and narrowing.
Calcilytics are a class of medications that block the CaSR. When they were administered directly into the lung tissue of the mice they eliminated all of the symptoms of asthma. While calcilytics have been around for over 15 years, used in osteoporosis treatments, it is not yet known whether it is safe to administer them directly into the lungs of asthma patients. Researchers hope to study this use of calcilytics within the next two years- with treatments available in five years if all goes well.
Although this treatment is very promising and exciting, the headline that there is now a cure for asthma is quite overstated. Hopefully after more studies are done they will find a way to use this treatment successfully in humans. This will be especially good news for the thousands of asthma patients who don’t respond well to the current therapies. It may also prove helpful in treating similar conditions like COPD, chronic bronchitis or cystic fibrosis down the line.
In the mean time, while we wait for more research to be done, please keep up with your current asthma medications and action plan.
_Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition. She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER). _