People with severe asthma need individualized treatments, study suggests

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Though symptoms may look similar, tailoring treatments to patients’ needs yields the best results

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh explored the efficacy of different treatments for severe asthma sufferers. 

The researchers say traditional asthma treatments don’t work for everyone because our immune systems are all a little different. They believe medical providers need to consider each case individually to ensure that asthma treatments are best suited to their patients. 

“We started this study to better understand immune mediators of inflammation in asthma,” said researcher Dr. Matthew Camiolo. “We found that despite being grouped broadly as ‘clinically severe,’ these asthma patients had very different and distinct immune profiles.” 

Understanding biological and immune response

Most health care providers prescribe severe asthma sufferers with corticosteroids to help manage their symptoms. However, the researchers found that this isn’t an effective course of treatment for all patients. To understand these disparities, the researchers analyzed the genetic and cellular make-up of severe asthma patients. 

Through their research, the team identified two primary groups of asthma sufferers: one group exhibits higher levels of the IL-4 protein and the other group has higher levels of T cells. The IL-4 protein is closely linked with asthma, and it has highly inflammatory properties; T cells enhance the body’s ability to fight infections. The team says the differences between these two groups are critical when it comes to picking the best treatment option.

“We have identified two clusters of severe asthma patients with very similar biomarkers but with strikingly distinct immune profiles and associated biological pathways,” said researcher Anuradha Ray, Ph.D. “These findings identify new targets for therapy, which are distinct in the two subgroups of severe asthma patients who otherwise would be indistinguishable based on biomarker profiles.” 

Moving forward, the researchers hope that these findings can be beneficial in identifying asthma patients who may not respond to the typical course of treatment. Knowing this information can better serve severe asthma sufferers and ensure that their treatments are tailored to their individual needs. 

“These important findings are the result of a successful team effort among physician-scientists and basic scientists across institutions that has established a new frontier in asthma research,” said Dr. Ray. “We hope the new knowledge gained will be used to develop new therapeutics to treat severe asthma patients and also allow improved stratification of patients for better efficacy of existing therapies.” 

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