Researchers have identified a cellular mechanism that is said to contribute to bronchoconstriction and inflammation in asthma and subsequent studies have identified a novel therapy that could benefit millions.
The research is a result of the collaboration between researchers at Mayo Clinic, Cardiff University in Wales, King’s College London, the University of Manchester and the Open University in the United Kingdom, as well as the University of California San Francisco.
The researchers showed that elevated extracellular calcium as well as other internal chemicals released in asthma can activate a “calcium-sensing receptor” (CaSR) on airway cells. The researchers found that CaSR expression is increased in asthma, and contributes to enhanced bronchoconstriction and inflammation that is typically seen in asthma. Importantly, they found that the effects of CaSR can be reversed by CaSR antagonists, also called calcilytics.
Asthma is a growing concern worldwide, with over 235 million people diagnosed according to the World Health Organization, and the largest chronic disease among children. WHO says over 80 percent of asthma-related deaths occur in the under-developed countries.
“Our findings point to an entirely novel pathophysiological mechanism in asthma. As our studies proceed, if we can show that calcilytics can target multiple cell types and mechanisms that contribute to asthma or even other lung diseases, then we may have an exciting new therapeutic target,” says Y.S. Prakash, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist, physiologist, and co-senior author of the study.
“Calcilytics are small molecules and so they could be readily delivered by inhalation, thus limiting potential systemic side effects.”