Monday, October 6, 2014

New Clues to How Colds Can Spur Asthma Attacks

Scientists have pinpointed a molecule that may trigger potentially life-threatening asthma attacks brought on by colds.

The researchers say this finding could offer a target for new drugs to be developed to treat these attacks.

Most asthma attacks (80-90%) are caused by viruses that infected the airways, according to the British researchers. Most of these are rhinoviruses which are the main cause of the common cold.

The researchers found that a specific molecule called IL-25 may play a major role in asthma attacks caused by colds. The findings are published in the Oct. 1 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

“Our research has shown for the first time that the cells that line the airways of asthmatics are more prone to producing a small molecule called IL-25, which then appears to trigger a chain of events that causes attacks,” study co-lead author Nathan Bartlett, of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said in a college news release.

“By targeting this molecule at the top of the cascade, we could potentially discover a much-needed new treatment to control this potentially life-threatening reaction in asthma sufferers,” he added.

For the study, researchers compared lung cells from people with asthma and from those without asthma. When infected with a rhinovirus, the lung cells from people with asthma produced about 10 times more IL-25 than lung cells from people without asthma.

The study authors also found that an antibody could block IL-25 in mice. They said the next step in this preliminary research is to test blocking the molecule in humans.

First, “this finding could offer a target for new drugs to be developed”. Unfortunately, that statement drives virtually all health related research. Research takes money and the grants come from drug companies looking to develop the next profitable drug.

Most of you probably were not aware that the common cold is the trigger for 80-90% of asthma attacks. Honestly, I did not know the percentages were so high but I have experienced this “common cold trigger” clinically over and over again.

I try to take value from reviewing the new research and apply that knowledge to basic human physiology. Step one is to provide constant background supplementation of Echinacea to modulate the immune system to prevent an overt production of IL-25.

IL-25 stands for interleukin-25. It is an inflammatory chemical produced, in this case, in the epithelial cells that line the respiratory tract. The immune system responds by releasing leukotrienes and/or cytokines to further ramp up the immune response. This cycle snow balls out of control in asthma. Neighboring goblet cells in the respiratory tract also swell up to four times their normal size, producing up to ten times the normal volume of mucous. This effectively narrows the airways, making it difficult to breath.

Step two is adding Boswellia. It is very effective at reducing leukotrienes and cytokines, breaking the cycle of inflammation. It also has a calming effect of the vagus nerve that reduces the nervous system response along the respiratory tract to all of these inflammatory chemicals.

This is valuable research. The key is to examine what scientists are learning about human physiology, and then find a natural approach that reduces excess inflammation and supports normal function.
The current standard of care for asthma is steroids. These powerful exogenous hormones do reduce inflammation but the side effects are horrific. Any treatment that reduces or avoids the use of steroids has merit.

Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH) -Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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