Asthma remains one of the most significant health problems facing our communities today. If you look at the rates of asthma in our population, they are extremely out of proportion, especially among our children. One could argue that most of the increased rates are due to the hundreds of toxins in our air, including the typical allergens, cigarette smoke, car fumes -- you name it.
Statistically, we are talking about 300 million people worldwide and counting that are suffering from asthma. Symptoms for these patients include coughing, which is often worse at night or early in the morning, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Severe symptoms can be fatal, which is why it is imperative to treat them from first onset.
One of the largest problems that we've had in addressing asthma is that we have not been able to identify the root cause -- or in other words -- the mechanism that is responsible for the inflammation and narrowing of the pulmonary tree that makes it so challenging for these patients to catch their breath. That is, until now.
Recently, in the Journal of Transitional Medicine, scientists from Cardiff University have clearly shown that the role of the calcium sensor receptor, once activated by allergens, is the mechanism that brings on the inflammation. This discovery could have a tremendous effect on developing new treatments for asthma. One has to consider that five percent of the asthma-afflicted population don't respond well to the current medications that we have, like bronchodilators.
This new research shows that by using new medicines such as calcilytics -- which were first developed for the treatment of osteoporosis around 15 years ago -- the symptoms of asthma can be reversed by deactivating the calcium-sensing receptor. Ultimately, calcilytics proved unsuccessful in treating osteoporosis, but the research team is now seeking funding to determine the efficacy of these drugs in difficult-to-treat asthma patients. The group aims to begin trials on humans within two years of securing funds.
I believe, just as it has been mentioned in other editorials, that this discovery could have further implications for other pulmonary diseases such as COPD or chronic bronchitis, for which there are no promising medicines. It is my hope for a quick turnaround in developing new medications to treat these asthma patients, as more and more studies cite the dangers lingering in our air. If we do not act quickly, asthma will continue to be a growing problem for generations to come.
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Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.