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Calcilytics could hold key to unresponsive asthma

Clinical news

Calcilytics could hold key to unresponsive asthma

Health Watch, by Brian Collett

Asthmatics unresponsive to existing therapies may be helped by drugs called calcilytics, which block a molecule that moves calcium around the lungs and causes symptoms, say researchers in a separate study. The team have used them to stop attacks and believe they could be available within five years. Another drug just developed at the centre relieves cat allergy reactions and should soon be in use. Researchers now hope it will combat other common allergies.

Drugs are being researched to prevent colds and other viral infections from triggering asthma attacks. Most patients’ immune responses fairly quickly blunt the infection arising when respiratory viruses embed themselves in airway cells to produce more copies. In asthmatics, however, the process is slower and attacks often follow. Specialists at the London MRC-Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma are seeking the cell components that allow viruses to reproduce and aim to develop drugs to stop this hijacking. Early results are “promising”.

A mechanism discovered in fruit flies could produce a new Parkinson’s disease treatment, say researchers at King’s College London. Damaged mitochondria were found to emit a signal disabling nerve cells, themselves regulated by a gene called HIFalpha. When the gene was deactivated, nerve function was restored and further nerve cell failure prevented. The same benefit was observed from HIFalpha deactivation in Leigh syndrome, a rare central nervous system degenerative disease. The study was conducted in conjunction with Imperial College London and York University.

Patients are advised in the British Heart Foundation magazine to continue taking statins despite negative press coverage. Danish researchers who followed 700,000 patients recorded that nearly 10 per cent stopped their medication after adverse publicity about the drugs. However, the magazine issues warnings that patients stopping statins had a 26 per cent higher heart attack risk and were 18 per cent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

The diets of 60,000 French women, from Western-style habits high in processed foods, meat and sugary drinks, to prudent regimes of vegetables, fruit and fish, are being studied by World Cancer Research Fund specialists. Researchers are assessing whether variations between 1993 and 2005 affected the women’s cancer risks and are observing whether those who developed cancer changed their diets after diagnosis. Another question for the investigation is whether socioeconomic status influenced the women’s diets. A second study by the charity found 41 per cent of adults were unaware that excess weight increased cancer risks.

A diet rich in whole grains and cereal fibres may cut the likelihood of premature death from many causes. Cereal fibres alone have been linked in studies at the Harvard School of Public Health to
a lower risk of serious diseases, including cancer, diabetes andheart and respiratory conditions. The researchers found cereal fibre was the vital component of whole grains, but was effective on its own too. Dr Lu Qi hoped the research, involving 367,000 retired people, would trigger more studies, including clinical trials, to test findings and understand how the protection works.

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