Asthmatics everywhere are (I'm sorry for this pun) breathing a sigh of relief knowing a cure is on the very near horizon. Every year, about 250 Canadians die from asthma, a point that was made very clear to me just last week when my five year-old son was hospitalized with a severe asthma attack. He has been formally diagnosed as asthmatic now, and the news of the discovery came just as we received his diagnosis. I hope this cure can help him, and my husband, too. Asthma is scary. It can be triggered suddenly by anything from allergies (dust mites, dust, animals, pollens, etc) to environmental pollution or exercise.
Researchers at Cardiff University and King's College London have identified the specific cells that cause airways to narrow, a discovery that changes everything for asthma sufferers. Previously, scientists knew only that narrowed airways (caused by inflammation) were the cause of asthma, but couldn't find the specific cause of that inflammation. Now, they've noticed calcium receptor cells that basically freak right out when detecting environmental changes. And what's even more exciting is that the drugs that can ease this reaction already exist.
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In Canada alone, more than 3 million people suffer from asthma, and of those, 60% do not have control over their disease. That's a scary thought. When triggers are so varied, and treatment limited, the potential of this discovery is immense. My son spent eight hours in an emergency room with doctors unsure of how to get his lungs more air - I can tell you that asthma is a tough thing to manage once it has been triggered. Stopping it before it happens would be amazing.
"Our findings are incredibly exciting," says Daniela Riccardi, a Cardiff University professor involved in the study. "If we can prove [existing] 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." Calcilytics, when inhaled, stop all symptoms.
Clinical trials are to begin soon.