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Asthma could be cured by 2020 after drug breakthrough


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Scientists are hoping that clinical trials will begin soon. 

"If this research proves successful we may be just a few years away from a new treatment for asthma, and we urgently need further investment to take it further through clinical trials. 

“Asthma research is chronically underfunded; there have only been a handful of new treatments developed in the last 50 years so the importance of investment in research like this is absolutely essential." 

The discovery could also pave the way for new treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis, for which currently there exists no cure. It is predicted that by 2020 these diseases will be the third biggest killers worldwide.

Top Reddit comment says the headline and the story itself are extremely inaccurate:

The story's deck says: "Scientists at Cardiff University and Kings College London have found out what causes asthma and how to switch it off "

This is not true. The researchers found a pathway that can trigger some parts of asthma, but the researchers do not claim that this is the cause of asthma. Most asthma researchers now believe that the disease has probably many different causes, all leading to a similar set of symptoms.

In the story itself, the reporter writes "...researchers at Cardiff University and Kings College London identified which cells cause the airways to narrow when triggered by irritants like pollution."

This as well is not true. The researchers looked at airway smooth muscle cells, but it was already known that these cells are responsible for the constriction seen in asthma. What this team did discover is a type of receptor in these cells that can trigger this constriction.

"Crucially, drugs already exist which can deactivate the cells. They are known as calcilytics and are used to treat people with osteoporosis. "

These aren't drugs, because none of them have been approved by any government agency. And they definitely haven't been prescribed by any doctor to treat osteoporosis. In fact, many have been abandoned as possible treatments for osteoporosis. Also they don't deactivate the smooth muscle cells. They deactivate the receptors in those cells.

Finally, the claim that asthma could be cured in five years is extremely problematic. First, even if these molecules get approved as asthma drugs, they would not cure the disease. People would still have asthma. They'd just have a new medication they'd take to prevent symptoms such as wheezing and breathing problems. And, going back to what I wrote above, this is probably not going to treat all asthmatics because there isn't a singular root cause of the disease.

And the biggest issue here, and what the story leaves out, is that study, in part, involved studies of a mouse model of allergic asthma--one type of the disease. Mouse models are great for pointing in a direction, but they are not people. And for asthma, mouse models don't have the greatest success rate in finding drug leads. So until there are clinical data on these compounds, it is way too early to call these treatments for asthma. And definitely not cures.

600+ Reddit comments:

http://reddit.com/r/science/comments/33kucg/asthma_drug_that_can_prevent_patients_from_ever/

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