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Airway discovery could improve lung health

Asthma UK scientists have made an exciting discovery that could help to improve the lung health of people with asthma.

Dr Sun Ying and colleagues at the
MRC-Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma have discovered new information on airway remodelling: long-lasting lung changes that cause asthma symptoms for many people.

Using biopsy samples, Dr Ying and his team found that lung cells in people with asthma produce higher levels of molecules known to cause thickening of the airways. The level of these molecules directly correlates with the person’s ability to breathe out rapidly – a measure of lung health.

They have also discovered that endothelial cells (those that line the lungs’ airways) from people with asthma actively cause angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels. This is direct evidence that endothelial cells can cause long-lasting swelling and obstruction of the airways.

Dr Ying said: ‘There are a number of angiogenesis-blocking drugs now available. Our research suggests that these might one day have a role to play in asthma management by preventing airway remodelling, thereby stopping a person’s asthma from worsening.’

Dr Elaine Vickers, Research Relations Manager at Asthma UK said: ‘Airway remodelling is a huge problem for people with asthma. As time goes on, these lung changes gradually make it harder and harder for them to breathe, and there are currently no proven methods for stopping it.

‘Dr Ying’s research, which he is today presenting to international asthma experts, sheds new light on how airway remodelling occurs, and how we might one day be able to halt it in its tracks.’

Dr Ying presented his findings at the Collegium Internationale Allergologicum Annual Symposium in Italy last week.

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