Researchers from Cardiff University, King’s College London and the Mayo Clinic believe they have identified the root cause of asthma and an existing drug that offers the potential of curing the disease.
In a paper published in Science Translational Medicine journal, the research team establishes the role of the calcium sensing receptor (CaSR) in causing asthma. More important, the paper says that a class of drugs known as calcilytics will act on CaSR, to reverse all asthma symptoms.
According to the research paper, calcilytics delivered with a nebulizer directly into the lungs, will deactivate CaSR and stop airway narrowing, airway twitchiness and inflammation. That, effectively, would be a cure, but a research finding is just a first step.
The next step is clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy and safety of calcilytics in humans. Assuming safety and efficacy are established, the approval of calcilytics for treating asthma could occur in as few as five years.
Calcilytics were first developed for treating osteoporosis by targeting CaSR to induce the release of an anabolic hormone. The technique proved unsuccessful, but they drugs were shown to be clinically safe and well tolerated in people.
While the primary finding establishes the link between environmental triggers, including allergens, cigarette smoke and air pollution, and CaSR, the research also holds out hope for treating other lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis.