Scientists have made an important discovery that may lead to better treatment for those suffering from asthma. In a study led by scientists from Edith Cowan University, Australia, it was discovered that those suffering from severe cases of asthma have a distinct biochemical profile in their urine when compared to individuals suffering from mild or moderate asthma and healthy individuals. The research, which was published in the European Respiratory Journal, was a part of the broader U-BIOPRED study, a larger pan-European initiative that is looking to investigate asthma and its different subtypes.
The team of researchers led by Dr Stacey Reinke (ECU) and Dr Craig Wheelock (Karolinska Institute, Sweden), found that severe asthmatics had lowered levels of carnitines, a specific type of metabolite. Carnitines are a crucial part of the body’s cellular energy generation process along with the immune response. Further analysis found that carnitine is metabolised slower in the body of severe asthmatics.
Researchers hope that the breakthrough will help develop better treatment methodologies. “Severe asthma occurs when someone’s asthma is uncontrolled, despite being treated with high levels of medication and/or multiple medications. To identify and develop new treatment options, we first need to better understand the underlying mechanisms of the disease,” explained Dr Reinke.
One of the trouble spots in research into asthma is the difficulty that scientists have in investigating the lungs directly. With invasive procedures being difficult, it becomes tough for scientists to investigate what’s going on within the lungs. But as the lungs are densely packed with blood vessels, scientists can investigate the profile of the blood that passes through the lung. Any chemical changes in the blood are then excreted from the urine, which scientists can investigate easily.
“In this case, we were able to use the urinary metabolome of asthmatics to identify fundamental differences in energy metabolism that may represent a target for new interventions in asthma control,” Dr Reinke added.