UTMB LogoAsthma seems to be a difficult to treat disorder mainly because accurate medicine and dosage has to be estimated for every patient. Matching the right therapy to the right asthma subtype is estimated to enhance asthma treatment. Yet various therapies have to first be employed on asthmatics for ascertaining the precise treatment. If scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston’s Institute for Translational Sciences are to be believed, then modern medicine can help improve asthma treatment.

The investigators ascertain that with advancement in new technologies, asthma subtypes can be distinguished as soon as possible. Early identification can further lead to immediate prescription of exact medication that may help avoid or diminish future attacks. In order to conduct the study, experts analyzed 1,048 participants belonging to SARP which is a National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

“In an earlier study, we found that patterns of proteins in the airway lining fluid are connected to particular asthma subgroups. For this project, our MTT worked with the national Severe Asthma Research Program, using a much larger sample of people with asthma. We were looking for the best way to relate protein patterns to specific disease subtypes,” added Dr. Allan Brasier, lead author of the paper and director of the ITS.

All the study subjects were categorized in four largely separate groups. Two categories comprised patients reporting either eosinophils or neutrophils which are a type of immune cell. These cells are apparently the cause of inflammation constricting a patient’s airway. The other group encompassed patients with bronchial tubes that open at once while using an albuterol inhaler. The last group had people responding very strongly to exposure of methacholine. It was ascertained that methacholine is a medication normally prescribed for treating asthma.

Brasier shared, “We applied four different computational methods to predict what specific asthma subset each patient belonged to based on cytokine patterns and two worked very well, giving us 80 to 90 percent accuracy. We hope to improve that to 100 percent, of course, but we still see this as a landmark study — because for the first time we’re starting to tie protein profiles to specific asthma subsets, which leads directly to getting people the right treatment for asthma much more rapidly. One of the goals of the ITS-supported MTTs is to partner with national consortia or networks to increase the impact of their studies; this linkage with the SARP program is a good example of this approach.”

In the course of the study, scientists examined saline solution washings of airway lining fluid from the lungs of 76 anesthetized SARP volunteers. Various highly parallel measurement techniques were put to use for calculating the levels of 20 key cytokines which are immune-signaling proteins. They were then employed for computer modeling to scan patterns in the protein measurements. These identified patterns were then matched in every patient belonging to one of the four subtypes.

The study is published online in the ‘Early View’ section of the journal Clinical and Translational Science.