The medical world is abuzz with news of a new asthma breakthrough, which could lead to new treatments, and potentially a cure, within five years. Already, just weeks after being announced, the news has been heralded as a game changer.
Researchers working at Cardiff University and Kings College London have discovered that protein molecules called 'calcium sensing receptors' play an integral role in asthma. What is really exciting is that effective treatments called 'calcilytics' which block the functions of the molecules that already exist.
The possibilities of this discovery are massive. Scientists hope that using this knowledge, treatments could be developed within the foreseeable future that prevent asthma attacks and symptoms from ever occurring, negating the need for asthma sufferers to carry an inhaler with them. This could potentially offer freedom to millions of asthma sufferers worldwide.
Asthma is a chronic condition that can be treated effectively with medications that are widely available. Everyday things often trigger symptoms - dust, pollen, and exercise for example - that are unavoidable.
Also, whilst current treatments for asthma enable the majority of sufferers to live normal lives with minimal interference and inconvenience, it must be remembered that more than 5% of asthma sufferers do not respond at all to the current treatment options. For them, a new treatment type could be life changing.
However, some medical experts have advised caution. Whilst calcilytics have been used effectively in the suppression of calcium sensing receptors in those suffering from osteoporosis, it does not necessarily mean that the same would apply when treating asthma.
The research was conducted using mice models and human lung tissue. Whilst results were positive at this level, researchers have raised questions on whether the dosage of calcilytics required to treatment the inflammation of airways is safe.
However, Dr Samantha Walker of Asthma UK, one of the key funders of the research, was optimistic of its potential; "This hugely exciting discovery enables us, for the first time, to tackle the underlying causes of asthma symptoms."
She also went on to highlight the potential benefit for the millions of asthma sufferers who do not respond to current treatments.
Researchers are hoping that this could be taken to clinical trials on humans within a couple of years. Based on the success of that, new treatment options could be available within 5 years, which is great news for asthma sufferers.
Click here to find out more about the study.