by Dr. Meenakshy Varier on  March 2, 2017 at 1:22 PM Health Watch
  • Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that has no permanent cure.
  • Though new cures are underway for allergy related asthma, there is a need for new therapies for non-allergy related asthma.
  • A key protein, HMGB1 has been identified to be increased in the mucous from the airways of people with non-allergy related, severe asthma.

New Treatment Target for Asthma Identified
New and improved treatments for people with severe asthma are a 'step closer'.

The discovery is by a research team from the University of Leicester.

Scientists have discovered that an active form of a key protein, HMGB1, is increased and it is related to narrowing of the airway in people with severe asthma.

The finding can lead to the development of new drugs that can specifically target the protein for the treatment for non-allergy related asthma.


Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that causes narrowing of airways. It is characterized by obstruction of airflow, hypersensitivity and inflammation of cells in the airways.

The airways become sensitive to various environmental irritants and pollutants.

When a person with asthma comes into contact with an irritant, it causes the body to react in several ways which can include wheezing, coughing, constricting of chest and making breathing more difficult.

In the U.S, around 17.7 million adults over the age of 18 years and around 6.3 million children have been diagnosed asthma as per CDC statistics.

Non-allergic asthma is often associated with non-allergic co-morbidities, such as rhinosinusitis and gastroesophageal reflux. It occurs mostly in adults and is less responsive to treatment with corticosteroids.

It occurs on exposure to small molecular weight irritants. Neutrophils are found to be prominent in the airways in this type of asthma.

Increased levels of HMGB1 in the Mucous

For the study, mucous and airway muscle samples gathered from people with mild to moderate asthma, severe asthma and healthy volunteers recruited from Leicester's Glenfield Hospital.

Dr Ruth Saunders, lead author of the study from the University of Leicester Department of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation, said "For a number of people with asthma, particularly severe asthma, treatment is not 100% effective. Although a number of new therapies are under investigation for allergy-related asthma, there is still a need for new therapies for asthma that is not related to allergies."

HMGB1 is a protein that can be released in the airways by cells involved in inflammation or by damaged cells.

The researchers found that the amount of this protein is increased in the mucous from the airways of people with severe asthma and it triggers smooth muscle contraction.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to show a direct effect of HMGB1 on enhancing airway muscle contraction in response to stimuli. The findings of this research bring us a step closer to improved treatments for people with severe asthma." Saunders added.

The study is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.


  1. Asthma - (
  2. Allergic vs. Non-Allergic - (
  3. Ruth Saunders et al.HMGB1 is upregulated in the airways in asthma and potentiates airway smooth muscle contraction via TLR4. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology; (2017)
Source: Medindia

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