Penn and Rutgers Researchers Discover New Pathway That May Trigger Asthma

Finding could lead to better drugs for the many asthma patients who don’t respond well to current medications

PHILADELPHIA—Asthma is an enormous public health problem that continues to grow larger, in part because scientists don’t fully understand how it is caused. Existing therapies don’t cure the disease and often don’t even significantly alleviate the symptoms. Now, scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University have identified a biological pathway that potentially explains why current asthma therapies don’t work well in many cases—and might be targeted to help those patients.

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects more than 25 million people in the United States alone, including more than 7 million children. It accounts for nearly 2 million ER visits annually and about 1.5 million patient-days of hospital inpatient care.

“Only 60 percent of asthma patients have an inflammatory or allergic component to their asthma and 40 percent of asthma patients wheeze in part due to intrinsic abnormalities of epithelial and smooth muscle cells,” said co-senior author Edward E. Morrisey, PhD, a professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and director of the Penn Center for Pulmonary Biology at Penn.

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