Deterring the Damage of Asthma

Study identifies white blood cells that cause related airway scarring

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MONDAY, Oct. 6, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A team of Canadian and British scientists has identified a form of white blood cell that's responsible for the body's excessive repair response to asthma, which results in airway scarring.

The finding appears in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

They also found targeting this white blood cell, an eosinophil, with the drug monoclonal antibody anti-Interleukin-5 reduces airway scarring.

Eosinophils were known to cause inflammation of lung airways. But this study found they're also responsible for the process which leads to an excessive repair response by the body. This response, called airway remodeling, causes structural changes in a person's airway walls.

Airway remodeling sometimes results in permanent scarring and narrowing of the airways, causing more severe and repeated asthma attacks.

"This research could be of considerable long-term benefit in developing more effective treatments in asthma. We already know that eosinophils cause inflammation in the bronchi, but it is the subsequent repair process which may be more important in long-term chronic disease," research leader Dr. Barry Kay, Imperial College London, says in a statement.

"In the future, drugs may be available which completely interfere with the process of scarring or remodeling, and may prove beneficial in the long-term treatment of asthma," Kay says.

"Anti-IL-5 will not be a magic bullet for asthma sufferers, but it could be an important first step in developing really effective drugs which interfere with remodeling," he adds.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about asthma.

SOURCE: Imperial College, London, news release, Oct. 1, 2003

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