Tightness of the chest and neck, wheezing, coughing, and fighting for each breath – these are the terrifying symptoms of a severe asthma attack. More than 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma (chronic inflammation of the airways) and more than 250,000 will die from the condition each year. Although most patients manage their asthma with anti-inflammatory treatments, for those with especially grave disease, it’s not enough. Researchers are therefore developing additional medications to suppress lung muscle tightening caused by over-stimulated airway receptors – a hallmark of severe asthma. One compound, isolated from the coralberry bush (pictured), targets a variety of these receptors at once and has recently been shown in animal models of asthma to promote sustained airway relaxation. If future studies show the compound is safe for use in humans, it could mean even the most severe asthmatics will finally be able to relax and smell the flowers.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.