Researchers in London believe that an unsuccessful osteoporosis medication may actually provide the foundation for a novel asthma treatment that could potentially, in as little as five years, stop asthma from happening in the first place.
The joint study conducted by researchers from Cardiff University in Wales and King's College London in England has proven a theory on the root cause of asthma. Although doctors knew that asthma was caused by inflammation in the airways, they were not sure of the cause.
Now, they've proven that the calcium sensing receptor (CaSR) causes asthma. Using mouse models, the team found that environmental triggers, such as allergens, cigarette smoke, and car fumes, activated CaSR in the airway tissue. According to the press release, this protein activation went on to cause asthma symptoms such as airway twitchiness, inflammation, and narrowing. While the role of CaSR in asthma had been previously theorized, until now it was unproven.
Knowing what causes asthma means doctors are better equipped at knowing how to treat it. The paper goes on to explain how a specific class of drugs, known as calcilytics, had an interesting effect on CaSR and manipulated them into reversing the symptoms of asthma. The team believes this class of drugs may hold potential for a novel asthma treatment.
Calcilytics are not a new drug; they were first developed as a treatment for osteoporosis around 15 years ago but were found generally ineffective in treating the condition. But while calcilytics didn’t work for osteoporosis patients, they could help millions of asthma patients, especially the five percent of patients who do not respond well to current treatment options by completely reversing the effects of asthma. The scientists hope that one day the drug could replace the need for inhalers by stopping asthmatics from ever experiencing any of the symptoms of their condition, The Telegraph reported.
"If we can prove that 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," Dr. Daniela Riccardi from Cardiff University explained in the press release.
Asthma is a condition in which an individual’s airways narrow, swell, and produce extra mucus. This causes difficulty breathing, which can range from being a slight nuisance to life-threatening. Currently, the condition cannot be cured, only controlled.
The first clinical trials for calcilytics use in asthmatic humans have been designed, but the team is still waiting for funding before they can move forward. Once they receive funding, human trials of calcilytics on asthma patients are expected to start in as little as two years.
The benefits from the identification of CaSR’s role do not stop at asthma treatment, however. The team believes the finding could also lead to potential treatments for other lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic bronchitis.
Source: Yarova PL, Stewart AL, Sathish V, et al. Calcium-sensing receptor antagonists abrogate airway hyperresponsiveness and inflammation in allergic asthma. Science Translational Medicine. 2015.