Good news for asthma sufferers! According to a recent article by The Times of India, a group of researchers from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), Johns Hopkins University, and Duke University have discovered a new potential treatment for asthma. It works by slowing down the two main biological processes that lead to asthma attacks—airway mucus secretions and smooth muscle contractions.
Asthmatics have more mucus-producing cells than those without asthma. The extra mucus can plug up airways, leading to an asthma attack. Asthmatics also tend to have a higher number of smooth musclessurrounding their airways, meaning that even a slight stimulus can cause a strong airway-constricting reaction.
The researchers discovered that both of these biological processes are regulated by the same calcium-activate chloride channel—TMEM16A. “[We thought] maybe if we could inhibit both of these processes by blocking this one channel, then we could affect the two symptoms of asthma,” said Dr. Jason Rock, assistant professor at UCSF’s Department of Anatomy.
This new treatment has already been successfully tested in the lab. Dr. Rock and his team simulated asthma in a dish, then blocked the TMEM16A channel. Mucus production was successfully slowed down. The next step is to test the safety of the channel blocker in animal studies. If that goes well, they can move on to us humans.
It will still be a while till the treatment is available to the public, but it’s nice to know that science is working toward a brighter future with fewer asthma attacks.