image by: David Cornejo
I wake up every day and I think, 'I'm breathing! It's a good day - Eve Ensler
Imagine that you're running around outside playing, or you're on vacation sightseeing, or you accidentally eat something that you’re allergic to and you start to feel a creeping, tightening, pain in your chest. It feels like something is crushing your lungs, sucking the air out of you. Imagine struggling to breathe the tiniest bit of air, but you can’t because it feels like there is something stuck in the back of your throat preventing any air from getting into, or out of, your lungs.
Now, imagine, while all of this is happening to you that you must try to keep yourself calm or you will make the situation worse. Yet your chest is getting tighter, the coughing is becoming more painful, and the air is not getting in. You grab your rescue inhaler and desperately try to suck in the life saving medicine. Slowly, the vice around your chest eases and you can take the tiniest breath. Your body is shaking, your face is sweaty and pale. But you can finally breathe. For now.
Does this sound familiar? This is asthma, and those who live with it live with the constant fear of the next attack. Always mindful of their triggers, always with rescue inhalers at their side.
Now imagine you’re one of the most famous soccer players in the world and you have exercise induced asthma. Running up and down the field hoping that an attack doesn’t occur; inhalers at the ready. That is the story of David Beckham, who has been living with asthma since he was a child. For most people that type of diagnosis would probably make them avoid a soccer field; however, Beckham never let it stop him from playing the game he loves.
In fact, Beckham started his professional soccer career at the age of nineteen playing for Manchester United in the UK. During his twenty year career, Beckham helped his various teams win more than 20 titles including six Premier League titles, which is the equivalent of winning the superbowl, and two Major League Soccer cups with the Los Angeles Galaxy. All the while secretly living with asthma.
Secretly, that is until Beckham was photographed using an inhaler while sitting on the sidelines. When asked about it after the game, Beckham said: "I have a slight case of asthma, which I have had for years." Although Beckham didn’t choose to make his condition public he said he hopes that the way he has chosen to deal with it “inspires other sufferers to think they can achieve great things..."
Once it was known that Beckham had asthma he became the unofficial poster child. Which I’m sure for him was a curse, but for other asthma sufferers, it was a blessing, because his famous face brought a lot of attention to the condition. More specifically, to the fact that asthma research is chronically underfunded. In fact, in the past 50 years, there have been no major breakthroughs and only a handful of new treatments. That is until now.
Researchers at Cardiff University say they have found the root cause of asthma, which could lead to new treatments, and a possible cure, within the next five years. Do you need a moment to re-read that? It’s true.
Researchers at the university used mice and human airway tissue from both asthmatic and non-asthmatic people and discovered that the condition is caused by an overactive calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR). This means that if a person has an overactive CaSR it causes the person’s airways to become inflamed and narrow, resulting in the tell-tale asthma symptoms: coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and loss of breath.
Perhaps the most exciting part of this discovery is that there are drugs, currently available, that can deactivate the overactive cells and alleviate asthma symptoms. The drugs are called calcilytics and they are calcium receptor antagonists. Calcilytics are not new. They were first developed as a treatment for osteoporosis around 15 years ago but were found to be ineffective. But while calcilytics didn’t help osteoporosis patients, they have the potential to help millions of asthma patients by manipulating the CaSR and reversing the symptoms of asthma.
What does this mean for asthma patients? A potential cure, that’s what. Professor Daniela Riccardi, the lead investigator of the study said, “If we can prove that calcilytics are safe when administered directly to the lung in people, then in five years we could be in a position to treat patients and potentially stop asthma from happening in the first place.”
This is amazing news, because in the United States alone, asthma affects nearly 25 million people and up to 9% of those who suffer from the disease do not respond to current treatments, which could be deadly. Therefore, if this research is successful, this could be the best news for asthma sufferers ever. And as the mother of a child with asthma, I couldn’t be more thrilled!
Stacy Matson is a health enthusiast from Southern California and regularly blogs on Celebrity Health for A Healthier World, as well as contributing to the Best of Best.
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