Despite numerous treatments available today to manage the symptoms of chronic asthma, this prevalent lung disease remains without a cure. However, a recent discovery points to an unexpected cause of asthma that could potentially revolutionize its treatment.

Researchers have identified a minute malfunction in the mechanical process responsible for the turnover of epithelial cells lining the lungs as a potential culprit behind chronic asthma attacks. This process, known as cell extrusion, involves the replication of epithelial cells followed by the ejection of weaker cells under pressure.

Normally, this mechanism maintains a healthy epithelial lining in the airways. However, when this process goes awry, it could contribute to the development and exacerbation of asthma. Asthma has affected over 300 million people around the world and is responsible for 1000 deaths every day.

Previous research had hinted at the involvement of cell extrusion in asthma, but scientists primarily focused on other triggers, such as muscle constriction or persistent inflammation in the airways. It was only when cell biologist Jody Rosenblatt examined images of damaged lungs from chronic asthma patients that she realized the potential significance of cell overcrowding in asthma pathogenesis.

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To test their hypothesis, Rosenblatt and her team conducted experiments using mouse lung cells and airway samples from human chronic lung disease patients. They found that inducing airway constriction in mouse lung cells led to severe cell overcrowding and subsequent cell ejection. Similarly, airway samples from asthma patients exhibited pronounced cell extrusion, mucus buildup, and airway damage.

Furthermore, treatment with albuterol, a drug commonly used to relax airways in asthma, failed to reverse the damage caused by cell extrusion. Instead, it exacerbated epithelial lining gaps, potentially allowing allergens and irritants to penetrate the airways. These findings shed light on why asthma symptoms may worsen over time despite treatment with albuterol.

In additional experiments, the researchers investigated the potential of targeting cell receptors involved in sensing mechanical force to prevent or reverse cell extrusion damage. By inhibiting piezo1, a protein that senses mechanical pressure in epithelial cells, they observed a significant decrease in cell ejection, inflammation, and mucus production.

These groundbreaking findings highlight the importance of understanding the mechanical forces underlying diseases like asthma. Lisa Manning, a physicist not involved in the study, commended the research as a “gorgeous example” of how tissue mechanics contribute to disease.

Moving forward, further research is needed to validate these findings in mice and humans and explore potential clinical applications. By gaining a deeper understanding of the role of cell overcrowding in chronic asthma, researchers may pave the way for new therapeutic approaches to effectively combat this debilitating disease.

Chetan Raj

I'm a writer, entrepreneur, and traveler obsessed with technology, travel, science, and the world we are living in. I realized the value of 'true knowledge' for the 1st time in my graduation which is one of the many reasons to create this magnificent platform...


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