Severe asthma cause identified

Managing severe asthma

Southampton researchers have discovered that some asthma patients have high levels of the protein uPAR in their blood, enabling new targeted treatments to be developed.

Asthma is a complex disease with many causes, so different subsets of patients can respond better to different treatments. Southampton researchers have identified one such group of patients that have severe asthma, based on high levels of a specific protein in their blood.

Genetically predisposed

The protein, known as uPAR, is produced by the asthma-linked gene PLAUR. Southampton researchers from our NIHR Southampton Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit demonstrated that the free form of uPAR in blood was higher in patients with severe asthma than healthy volunteers.

The team’s results, published in the journal Allergy, suggest that people with a change in the gene PLAUR, who as a result have more of this free form of uPAR in their blood, might be predisposed to develop a form of severe asthma that is not brought on by an allergic reaction.

Enabling new treatments

Identifying this subset of asthma patients and describing their common symptoms could enable research into new personalised medicine – treatments tailored to this particular subset of patients.

In addition, it helps to improve our understanding of what causes asthma and how that varies from patient to patient, helping to explain why people develop asthma.

This research could also lead to a clinical test for people with asthma to help to identify the cause of a person’s asthma, so that they can receive the best possible care for their condition.

Posted on Monday 10 October 2016