General Health Wednesday April 15, 2015

Can Asthma Be Cured?

Do you know someone with asthma? In fact you probably know several someones, as an astonishing 5.4 million of us Brits have some form of the condition, whether it is classed as mild or severe. A chronic inflammatory condition that affects approximately 10% of the population, our familiarity with asthma doesn't mean we should reduce our efforts in finding a cure.

Struggling for breath is a distressing experience, and not only for the sufferer. If you happen to have 'severe' asthma then you may find the simplest of tasks elude you. From keeping fit and healthy at the gym to running for the bus, those bursts of energetic activity that are usually manageable for the average Joe have you reaching for your inhaler and leaning on some poor passer-by for support. Simply put, asthma can have you feeling like you can't reach your full potential.

However often an attack happens, the condition can interfere with your everyday life. What is most surprising is that asthma is a long-term condition with no cure. Yep, that's right - 5.4 million Britons can manage the symptoms but not be rid of asthma completely.

Working towards a cure

However, there have been strides towards finding a cure for this elusive condition that directly involves the immune cells connected to triggering your symptoms.

Type 2 innate lymphoid cells (or ILC2s), which are responsible for the generation of mucus and sensitised airways, are often to blame for asthma symptoms. Scientists at the Keck School of Medicine have combined two proteins, an inducible T cell co-stimulator molecule (ICOS) and ICOS-ligand (ICOS-L), to create a 'therapeutic' approach, targeting ILC2s to treat asthma. Research associate at the Keck School, Hadi Maazi, explains further:

"In this study, we discovered molecules critical to ILC2 homeostasis, survival and function. We believe that targeting these molecules or related pathways could one day cure a patient with ILC2-dependent asthma."

Researchers are hoping that the molecules will help improve symptoms and could eventually lead to a cure. Until then, here are some easily digestible facts and stats about asthma in the UK:

  • One in five households are affected
  • 1 in 11 children receive treatment
  • 1 in 12 adults receive treatment
  • There were 1.1 million sick days taken relating to breathing/lung problems in 2008/09
  • There are an average of 3 asthma-related deaths every day in the UK
  • There were 1,167 asthma-related deaths in 2011
  • 90% of deaths are preventable
  • The NHS spends approximately £1 billion a year on treating the condition
  • There were an average of 69 emergency children hospital admissions per day in 2008/09

Current treatments

Many people with asthma use preventer or reliever inhalers to manage their symptoms. These treatments work by transporting medication straight to the lungs. For those who struggle with inhalers, using a 'spacer' can make the condition far more manageable, especially for children. Carrying an inhaler around at all times is a requirement for nearly all people with asthma, but avoiding certain triggers can be just as vital, including:

  • Exercise
  • Smoking
  • Food allergies
  • Mould or damp
  • Chemical fumes
  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Animal fur
  • Cold or flu
  • Air pollution
  • Flour and grain dust
  • Wood dust

To find out more about symptoms and treatments relating to this condition, please visit our asthma information page.

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