New way to help asthma sufferers found
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A new study has offered new hope to asthma sufferers by identifying ways to reduce the factors that lead to an asthma attack.
A UCSF researcher and his colleagues believe they have found a way to help asthma sufferers by impeding the two most significant biological responses that lead to an asthma attack.
Asthma, a respiratory disorder that causes shortness of breath, coughing and chest discomfort, results from changes in the airways that lead to the lungs.
Researchers from UCSF, Johns Hopkins University and Duke University have demonstrated that a specific calcium-activated chloride channel holds valuable clues to reducing two biological processes that contribute to the severity of asthma. These channels regulate airway secretions and smooth muscle contraction, the two major factors that lead to an asthma attack.
"Maybe if we could inhibit both of these processes by blocking this one channel, then we could affect the two symptoms of asthma," said senior author Jason Rock, PhD, assistant professor at the UCSF Department of Anatomy.
Normally humans have few mucus-producing cells but asthma sufferers have an elevated number of these cells in the lining of the tubes that lead to the lungs. Asthmatics also have an abnormal amount of smooth muscle surrounding the airway tubes. Even the slightest stimulus can cause these to contract.
"The overabundance of mucus plugging the airways combined with hyper-contractility of the smooth muscle – when the tubes get really small – make it difficult to move air in or out. A lot of people equate that with breathing through a straw," Rock said.
Rock and his colleagues focused on a calcium-activated chloride channel called TMEM16A. This channel secretes chloride ions in response to rises in intracellular calcium. It regulates a significant number of biological processes such as neuron firing, gastrointestinal activity and the secretion of sweat and tears.
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