A cure for asthma could be possible within five years according to a new scientific breakthrough.
Scientists at Cardiff University and Kings College London have discovered what could be a new root cause of asthma symptoms and one that could be tackled with treatment.
Asthma symptoms are a result of:
1. inflammation in the lungs which causes lung tissue to swell and produce mucus, blocking the airways
2. tightening of the muscles surrounding the airways, which causes further narrowing of the airways making it difficult to breathe.
The researchers have found a 'receptor' that can cause the muscles to contract and lead to more inflammation. They also discovered that cells from the muscles around airways from people with asthma contained more of the receptors than those without the condition suggesting that the receptors are closely linked to asthma.
Very importantly, their investigations revealed that blocking the receptors with drugs meant that the cells were less likely to respond to things that would normally trigger asthma symptoms and that other asthma symptoms reduced.
Consequently, it is hoped that developing a drug that blocks these receptors could stop asthma symptoms from developing in the first place.
Such a development would potentially have a positive impact on a considerable number of people’s lives given the fact that five million people suffer from asthma in the UK.
The condition can cause debilitating symptoms such as chest tightness and breathlessness. Currently, inhalers are used by many sufferers to keep asthma under control but some people don’t respond to this treatment. The potential new treatment might, if clinical trials are successful, offer a different option that better suits some people.
Asthma UK say that if this potential treatment were to work then it is likely that it would be a treatment that people with asthma continued to take (like existing inhalers) rather than being a 'cure'.
Asthma UK, are hopeful of a complete cure within years, but this depends on further investment being urgently provided to fund clinical trials. As Dr Samantha Walker from Asthma UK said, “Asthma research is chronically underfunded; there have only been a handful of new treatments developed in the last 50 years, so the importance of investment in research like this is absolutely essential."
Whilst the prospects of a new treatment are exciting doctors and employers alike must continue to recognise the needs of asthma sufferers and make appropriate provisions for them.
Occupational asthma is responsible for one in six adults who develop the disease and is caused by allergic reactions from workers exposed to substances like flour, wood dust or certain adhesives so businesses are urged to remain aware of the risks to their employees and not become complacent in believing that asthma will soon be a thing of the past.
Slater and Gordon Industrial Disease Solicitors can provide expert legal advice if you have developed asthma at work. 98% of our occupational asthma claims are dealt with on a No Win, No Fee basis, meaning there is no financial risk to you.
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