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Corticosteroids often fail to help people with severe asthma

By HealthDay News
The new findings suggest different cellular pathways are at work in the airway lining cells of patients with severe asthma, particularly those involved in inflammation. asthma inhaler. Photo by InspiredImages/<a href="https://pixabay.com/photos/asthma-ventolin-breathe-inhaler-1147735/">Pixabay</a>
The new findings suggest different cellular pathways are at work in the airway lining cells of patients with severe asthma, particularly those involved in inflammation. asthma inhaler. Photo by InspiredImages/Pixabay

New research reveals why popular treatments for asthma attacks are often ineffective.

Corticosteroids are used as an emergency treatment during asthma attacks to decrease airway swelling and irritation. While effective in people with moderate asthma, they often fail to help those with severe asthma.

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"Our study has uncovered a potential mechanism to explain why patients with severe asthma are unresponsive to conventional therapy," said study co-author Reynold Panettieri Jr., vice chancellor of Clinical and Translational Science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. "If we could uncover new approaches to treatment that directly affect that mechanism, we may be able to restore a sensitivity to the steroid and improve outcomes."

He and his colleagues found that two naturally occurring growth factors -- natural substances that stimulate cell proliferation -- activate in the airway-lining cells of severe asthma patients when they inhale corticosteroids and block the medications from working.

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The two growth factors are fibroblast growth factor (FGF) and granulocytic colony forming growth factor (G-CSF), according to findings recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

"We believe this response explains why patients with severe asthma are unresponsive to such conventional therapy," Panettieri said in a Rutgers' news release.

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Of the more than 25 million people in the United States with asthma, an estimated 5% to 10% have severe asthma, according to the American Lung Association.

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The new findings suggest different cellular pathways are at work in the airway lining cells of patients with severe asthma, particularly those involved in inflammation, researchers said.

They said these results could point the way to new therapies for people with severe asthma.

Tests in mice showed that when researchers blocked release of chemicals that trigger secretion of the two growth factors, corticosteroids were able to reverse airway inflammation and also prevented tissue scarring. Research done in animals often produces different results in humans.

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More information

There's more on asthma at the American Lung Association.

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