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Researchers uncover asthma's root cause

"If this research proves successful we may be just a few years away from a new treatment," said Dr. Samantha Walker, who helped fund the work.

By
Brooks Hays

CARDIFF, Wales, April 23 (UPI) -- Researchers in Wales and England have developed a highly effective asthma drug, and in the process may have uncovered the disorder's root cause.

In a recent study, scientists explored the breathing disorder via both mouse and human airway models, using tissue from asthmatic and non-asthmatic people. Their work highlighted the body's calcium sensing receptor (CaSR) as the main culprit in triggering asthma symptoms -- airway narrowing, airway twitchiness and inflammation.

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Much as the immune system of allergy patients overreacts to pollen or other particulates, the research models showed CaSR went into overdrive when asthmatic tissue was irritated by external stimuli.

The research also demonstrated the impressive effectiveness of a class of drugs known as calcilytics, which manipulate CaSR and in lab experiments reversed asthma symptoms. Calcilytics are currently mostly used to treat osteoporosis.

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"Our findings are incredibly exciting," lead researcher Daniela Riccardi, a professor at Cardiff University School of Biosciences, said in a press release. "For the first time we have found a link airways inflammation, which can be caused by environmental triggers - such as allergens, cigarette smoke and car fumes -- and airways twitchiness in allergic asthma."

"If this research proves successful we may be just a few years away from a new treatment for asthma, and we urgently need further investment to take it further through clinical trials," said Dr. Samantha Walker, the policy and research director at Asthma UK.

Walker was influential in funding the research -- a collaboration between scientists at Cardiff University, Kings College London and the Mayo Clinic.

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The study was published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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