New, Exciting, Asthma Treatments On The Horizon
We asthmatics yearn for a new class of medicines. I'm talking about a major breakthrough here, not reformulations of older medicines. That said, here is a look at recent discoveries that may lead to new, exciting classes of asthma treatments.
Potential asthma treatments
Researchers at the University of Leipzig discovered a protein called syndecan-4 that is found in cell membranes of antigen-presenting cells, which process and present antigens (like cat dander) to T-Cells, which release chemicals that begin the allergic response. Researchers figure syndecan-4 is a “key protein” in the development of allergies.
So, perhaps further research here will lead to a medicine to block the allergic response. Considering 75% of asthmatics also have allergies, such a medicine could be a big deal.1
Researchers at Cardiff University School of Medicine used mouse models to learn the role of Calcium Sensing Receptors (CaSR) in the development of asthma. They now believe it to be the root cause of asthma. This appears to be the missing link between asthma triggers and chemicals released by the immune system that cause allergy and asthma symptoms.
A medicine to block the activation of CaSR could, potentially, prevent asthma attacks from occurring, thereby preventing the need for asthma rescue medicine. Even better, calcilytics are already on the market, and researchers figure it may be as soon as 2020 for this exciting line of treatment to become a reality.2
Selective Glucocorticoid Receptor Agonists and Modulators (SEGRAMs)
This one is really exciting for me, because I’ve been writing for years about the need for a systemic steroid without the side effects. For the 85-90% of us who respond well to corticosteroids, sometimes we have asthma episodes that require systemic steroids.
But if you’re like me, the side effects are something horrible, especially when you need them long-term or in high doses. Researchers believe SEGRAMs may offer a greater anti-inflammatory effect than corticosteroids, and with fewer risks for side effects.
Plus, patients would prefer an oral medicine to an inhaler any day. And, considering studies show most asthmatics have poor inhaler technique regardless of device used, SEGRAMs could be a major boon to asthmatics. An added bonus is they may also control allergies and eczema.3, 5
Riociguat and Cinaciguat
These two medicines were initially designed to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension, or high blood pressure inside the lungs. However, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic discovered that it may also work as an effective bronchodilator. They think this may be useful for the 10-15% of asthmatics who don't respond well to inhaled corticosteroids, and for the 10-40% of asthmatics who respond poorly to bronchodilators like albuterol and levalbuterol.
As a bonus, these medicines have also been shown to reverse airway hyper-responsiveness, making airways less sensitive allergens (dust mites, pollen, mold spores, etc.) and other asthma triggers. So it may also be a useful treatment for controlling allergic asthma.
Since these two medicines have already been approved by the FDA, they may be available for asthmatics in 2016, or this year.4, 5
What to make of this?
I listed here four discoveries that may lead to potential new classes of asthma medicines. Keep in mind that there are many, many more medicinal options in the pipeline. This is a testament to how hard researchers, scientists, and pharmaceuticals are working to find better treatment options to help the 334 million asthmatics around the world.
Just think how exciting it must have been for asthmatics in 1956 when the rescue inhaler was invented, although a year away from being introduced to the market. It’s possible one of these discoveries will actually result in a new class of medicine, and that we are sitting, right now, on the cutting edge of the next big breakthrough in asthma medicine. Of course, it’s nice to dream, yet we must temper our enthusiasm.
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