ASTHMA patients could potentially be distinguished from each other by their differing levels of disease severity following the discovery of biological variations in lung tissue samples by researchers from the University of Leicester and Loughborough University, Leicestershire, UK. The discovery could provide the basis for more targeted, personalised treatments for asthma in the future.
In the study, multiple biological ‘microclusters’ were identified, displaying the existence of different combinations of active genes in mild, moderate, and severe types of asthma. Demonstrating biological differences between each of the reported subtypes of asthma could enable doctors to prescribe treatments to patients according to their specific needs, leading to improved outcomes.
State-of-the-Art Statistical Methods
The team were able to make their findings by performing the largest comprehensive analysis of common pathological features in the airways of asthma patients with varying degrees of severity using state-of-the-art statistical methods that involved visualisation techniques. Clinical features of the different asthma subtypes were also investigated, as was the existence of a link between changes in genes and decline in lung function.
Prof Peter Bradding, University of Leicester, said: “The most exciting thing about finding these biological variations underpinning the differences between mild asthma and moderate and severe asthma is that the statistical methods, if further developed, could lead to the development of new, targeted treatments for subtypes of asthma, thus allowing the right asthma treatments to be matched to different patients. In this scenario, patients would benefit because they would be offered more personalised, and therefore more effective, care to manage their asthma.”
The team confirmed that further research has now begun to try and establish how these statistical approaches can be used to combine this complex genetic information in asthma patients to better personalise treatments offered.
The study also adds to the evidence that asthma should not be viewed as a single condition, but rather as different lung ailments that require differing treatment approaches. It is hoped that this realisation will prompt more research into improving and developing diagnostic tools to enable earlier intervention.
James Coker, Reporter
For the source and further information about the study, click here.