Location: Lecture Theatre 2, New Hunt's House, Guy's Campus
Asthma, a disease of the modern world? The search for causes and cures
Speaker: Professor Jeremy Ward, Head of Department of Physiology and Acting Head of Division of Asthma, Allergy & Lung Biology
Summary: The number of people suffering from asthma has increased dramatically in the UK over the last few decades, but not in less developed nations. It is not clear why this is, though pollution, food additives and lack of vitamins have all been suggested.
However, none of these has been identified as the cause. Instead, many believe that asthma is due to a lack of suitable challenges to the developing immune system in early childhood – because in developed nations we no longer live in environments rife with parasites, i.e. we are too clean! This is known as the hygiene hypothesis.
However, preventing asthma by exposing children to parasites has rather substantial downsides. Current drugs are effective for most but not all people with asthma, and asthma still greatly impairs quality of life and indeed causes many deaths every year. We are therefore constantly searching for more effective treatments and novel therapeutic targets.
We have recently identified a completely new target, the calcium sensing receptor, which is activated by chemicals increased in asthma and for which antagonists, developed for another disease entirely, are already available. This exciting discovery could lead to a new treatment of asthma within 5 years.
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