New hope for asthma sufferers

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A new study is offering asthma sufferers hope.

Asthma is a respiratory disorder that causes shortness of breath, coughing and chest discomfort. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asthma affects 18.7 million adults and 7.0 million children in the U.S.

A University of California San Francisco (UCSF) researcher and his colleagues believe they have found a way to help asthmatics by blocking the two most significant biological responses that lead to an asthma attack.

People normally 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.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from UCSF showed 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.

Rock is in the pre-clinical phase to test the safety and effectiveness of the blockers in animal studies. If that goes well, Phase One of clinical trials can begin.

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