Future Treatments for Asthma Attacks Involving the Nervous System
Genetic research is being conducted at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to see how the nervous system responds to asthma attacks, and the possible future of medications that can be used for treatment. Asthma attacks are triggered by a hypersensitive immune response to exercise, temperature, dust or allergens, leading to the inflammation and constriction of a person’s airways. Sensitive bundles of neurons in the chest, branching from the vagus nerve, control the muscles in the airway that are responsible for contracting and relaxing.
Researchers performed an experiment on mice by selectively turning off genes which expressed specific nerve cells. When those mice were exposed to an allergen that would cause asthma-like symptoms, there was no airway constriction despite an immune response. They also found that immune system molecules may even interact and alter a neuron’s behavior to constrict an airway. Researchers hope to develop drugs that can alter these neurons or its communication with the immune system in order to treat attacks or even reverse a person’s hypersensitivity before an attack even begins.
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