A promising asthma treatment proved to be successful in early trials on mice

Pericytes are mostly found in the lining of blood vessels, and they are known to thicken the airways of people with asthma when an allergic and inflammatory reaction occurs, making breathing more challenging.

“By targeting the changes in the airway directly, we hope this approach could eventually offer a more permanent and effective treatment than those already available, particularly for severe asthmatics who don’t respond to steroids,” says biologist and pharmacologist Jill Johnson from Aston University in the U.K.

When the airways become thickened, shortness of breath and wheezing can be seen in people with asthma. In this case, steroids can help people by relaxing the airways and reducing the risk of inflammation. This, however, is not a permanent solution.

Thinning the airway walls

Preventing pericytes from reaching the airway walls could impact one of the underlying causes of shortness of breath. So the researchers targeted a protein called CXCL12 to get at the pericytes. In their experiments on mice with asthma, researchers have found that inhibiting the signal from this protein resulted in a week-long decrease in symptoms and a two-week eradication of all asthmatic symptoms.

“We were able to mitigate pericyte uncoupling from the airway microvasculature, resulting in decreased airway smooth muscle accumulation and improved symptom scores,” wrote the researchers in the study paper.

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