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Researchers identify marker for novel asthma treatments

Researchers find a marker which can identify patients who would benefit from novel asthma treatments


Wednesday, 5 September 2018: Researchers at RCSI, Stanford University and Oregon Health Sciences University have discovered a marker which can help determine which asthma patients are likely to benefit from a new treatment which targets inflammatory cells called Eosinophils. The research, which was funded through a Health Research Board Clinician Scientist Award, has today been published in Science Translational Medicine.

Asthma is a common clinical condition characterized by airway obstruction, inflammation, and hyper¬ responsiveness. It affects approximately 470,000 people in Ireland. Symptoms such as bronchoconstriction and cough range from mild intermittent to severe persistent. Some patients, despite good treatment, remain troubled by the symptoms of their condition.

According to Professor Richard Costello, Department of Medicine, RCSI, "The novel treatments now available for asthma present a new challenge for clinicians. It is important that we are able to identify which patient will benefit from these treatments. Our research set out to determine if there were any particular markers which would help us to understand which patients had a particular form of asthma and would respond well to new treatments".

Professor Costello explained that in eosinophilic asthma, the most common form of asthma, inflammatory cells (eosinophils) in the airway alter nerve function and make the condition worse.

"We identified that inflammatory cells, in particular, eosinophils, promote airway nerve growth in patients with asthma. These observations provide a unique insight into a fundamental mechanism of how the inflammation caused by asthma causes people to experience the symptoms of asthma such as coughing and breathlessness", said Professor Costello.

"Our research means that we now know which markers to look for in a patient with severe asthma. A patient with markers which show they have this particular form of asthma is likely to respond well to these new treatments".


RCSI is an international not-for-profit health sciences institution, founded in 1784, with its headquarters in Dublin. It is focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide. It is ranked among the top 250 (top 2%) of universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2018) and its research is ranked first in Ireland for citations. It is a signatory of the Athena SWAN Charter.

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