Cure

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Asthma UK funds research projects aimed at developing better medicines and treatments for asthma, and ultimately working towards a cure. These are all of our current funded projects in this area.

 

2019 Career Development Awards

 

1) Targeting proteins called ion channels in type 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s) to prevent the release of molecules causing asthma

  • Researcher: Dr Cathryn Weston is a researcher at the University of Leicester
  • Start date: 01 January 2020
  • How long will this project run for?: 45 months
  • Project type: Research Fellowship
  • Cost: £249,960.00

Project title: Ion channel regulation of type-2 innate lymphoid cell (ILC2) biology in asthma

Scientists have identified a new type of white blood cell that appears to be important in asthma. This cell, called a type 2 innate lymphoid cell (ILC2 for short), is found in the lungs and can make large amounts of proteins and fat-derived molecules that cause damage to lung tissue and narrow airways, causing asthma symptoms. Stopping the function of ILC2s might offer a new, more effective way of treating asthma. Ion channels are proteins in the outer membrane of cells that form holes to allow ions to move in and out of them. There are many different groups of ion channels and many drugs used today work by blocking individual channels. Blocking ion channels in ILC2s may therefore be a very effective way of stopping their activities that drive asthma. This work aims to identify the ion channels in human ILC2s and their roles in ILC2 function.


Potential impact: This research will find out whether blocking ion channels could be an effective treatment in steroid-resistant asthma.

 

2) Targeting IgE memory cells to treat asthma

  • Researcher: Dr Faruk Ramadani is a researcher at King's College London
  • Start date: 01 November 2019
  • How long will this project run for?: 36 months
  • Project type: Research Fellowship
  • Cost: £250,000.00

Project title: Role of PI3K p110δ in the generation and maintenance of human IgE memory responses


Allergic responses are triggered when a type of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE) reacts to an allergen, e.g. pollen or dust, and activates the immune system. The IgE antibodies are produced by plasma cells. These cells can live for decades in the bone marrow of people with asthma and continuously produce allergen-specific IgE antibodies, which is called the IgE ‘memory response’. This is why a person may react to an allergen even after years of avoiding it. Therefore, the IgE memory cells are a prime target for treatment. The main objective of this study is to use existing drugs to switch off IgE production, and also understand how human IgE memory cells are created and survive by gene blocking and editing. This project will investigate the role of a particular enzyme, called PI3K p110δ, that may play a key role in the creation and long life of IgE memory cells and will investigate its role and the effects that stopping it will have.


Potential impact: This research is looking at new potential target “PI3K p110δ” and the effects that stopping it will have in people with allergic asthma, which could lead to new treatments.

 

3) The role of complex genetic variation in asthma and asthma types

  • Researcher: Dr Katherine Fawcett is a researcher at the University of Leicester
  • Start date: 01 December 2019
  • How long will this project run for?: 45 months
  • Project type: Research Fellowship
  • Cost: £249,714.00


Project title: The role of complex genetic variation in asthma and asthma types


This project aims to understand how and why asthma develops and find out new approaches for treating asthma. Dr Fawcett will do this by identifying inherited differences in DNA “structure” (large chunks of sequence) between different people that increase the risk of asthma. These variations can have a significant impact on our health and early studies have shown that they are important in asthma. Furthermore, identifying which structural variation an individual might carry could also allow us to understand the type of asthma that they have and how we can treat it. The aims of this study are to discover new structural variations that increase risk of asthma and identify how these structural variations influence asthma to help us to understand asthma types. Dr Fawcett will analyse whole DNA sequence data from 50,000 patient volunteers, 8,250 of whom have asthma from UK Biobank.


Potential impact: This research will identify DNA differences that are associated with an increased risk of asthma. This could allow us to understand different types of asthma and the best ways to treat it.

 

Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research

The Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research is one of our flagship research centres, supporting cutting-edge, world-leading research. Asthma UK funded the Centre for Applied Research in May 2014. The Applied Centre includes researchers from all over the country and from universities and NHS organisations.

Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma

The Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma is one of our flagship research centres, supporting cutting-edge, world-leading research. Asthma UK has supported the Centre since 2011. The Centre is a collaboration between King's College London and Imperial College London.

Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research

The Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research is the first of its kind in the world. It brings together world-leading researchers from all over the UK and provides them with an unrivalled network of collaborators and resource to make differences in asthma research.

Applied research is community-based research that is undertaken to see if a drug, treatment or other intervention is effective when used in a clinical setting. Applied research often leads directly to improved care. Applied research puts people with asthma and their needs at the very heart of the work that is undertaken.

The Applied Centre complements our other research centre, the MRC-Asthma UK Centre in the Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma, which focuses on more lab-based work and understanding the biology of asthma.

As well as supporting cutting-edge research, the Applied Centre will establish some resources that can be used to improve asthma research in the long-term. These include data resources on a variety of asthma-related topics and a database of people with asthma who would be willing to take part in research trials, making recruitment easier and more successful. This is a crucial aspect of the Centre; as well as funding the best research now, we want to provide the best infrastructure to encourage more asthma research in the UK in the future.

You can read more about the research going on at the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research on their dedicated website.

 

Understanding the underlying biology of asthma

Improving diagnosis and the care that people with asthma receive