Innovation research funding to investigate a novel area of asthma research

A new Asthma UK research innovation grant has started this month at the University of Leicester. Asthma UK funds innovation grants to allow researchers to explore their ideas and gather more information in an area of research that has not yet been explored or tested.

Innovation grants are smaller than full project grants, and enable us to invest in potentially 'risky' projects or ideas without committing large amounts of our funding. If successful, our researchers are then in a better position to apply to larger grants with us or other research funders to take the idea further towards benefits for people with asthma.

Small amounts of funding like this, which allow a researcher to investigate a new direction for research may make the difference in finding new pieces of the puzzle, leading to a better understanding of asthma and the development of new treatments. It is funding exciting, innovative research that makes Asthma UK a world-leader in asthma research funding.

Dr Catherine Vial will lead this new innovation grant, which will investigate the complex communication, through a series of chemical signals, between a type of cell involved with the immune response called mast cells. Mast cells play a key role in the immune response that can trigger asthma symptoms. The muscles around the airways also play a key role in asthma symptoms when they constrict, they cause the airways to narrow and make it harder to breathe. It is thought that mast cells and the muscles communicate with each other, causing the worsening of symptoms. If we can better understand which chemical signals cause this worsening we may be able to develop treatments that block them, so stopping the symptoms from worsening.

Dr Vial says of her funding, "In the lungs of people with asthma, the airways are irritated due to the release of chemicals from activated immune cells called mast cells. Our study will investigate the contribution of proteins called P2X receptors to human mast cell activation.

"This work will help us to understand further the involvement of mast cells in the development of asthma. P2X receptors may prove to be important targets for new drugs with which to treat this disease."

The project will run until the end of May 2016.