Biochemistry Breakthrough May Soon Have Asthmatics Breathing Easier

Scientists have found biochemical distinctions between asthmatics and non-asthmatics, which might lead to more effective therapies.

In recent study performed by Edith Cowan University, a crucial discovery that might lead to more effective therapies for the world's 262 million asthma sufferers was made (ECU).

When compared to mild-to-moderate asthmatics and healthy people, severe asthmatics have a different biochemical (metabolite) profile evident in their urine. Dr. Stacey Reinke (ECU) and Dr. Craig Wheelock led the research (Karolinska Institute, Sweden).

Researchers collected urine samples from over 600 patients from 11 countries as part of the U-BIOPRED project, a Europe-wide endeavor, to identify and better understand distinct subtypes of severe asthma.

The researchers noticed that a specific sort of metabolite known as carnitines was reduced in severe asthmatics.

Carnitines are essential for cellular energy production and immunological responses.

Further research discovered that carnitine metabolism was reduced in severe asthmatics.

These new insights will aid researchers in developing better, more effective asthma treatments.

A big problem for a lot of people

Dr. Reinke of ECU's Centre for Integrative Metabolomics and Computational Biology believes it is critical to enhance asthma therapy.

“Asthma affects 2.7 million Australians and there were 417 asthma-related deaths in Australia in 2020,” she added.

“Severe asthma occurs when someone’s asthma is uncontrolled, despite being treated with high levels of medication and/or multiple medications.

“To identify and develop new treatment options, we first need to better understand the underlying mechanisms of the disease.” 

Examining the body's chemical composition, or'metabolome,' provides a picture of a person's present physiological condition and provides important insight into disease processes.

“In this case, we were able to use the urinary metabolome of asthmatics to identify fundamental differences in energy metabolism that may represent a target for new interventions in asthma control,” Dr. Reinke explained.

Can urine really tell us what is happening in the lungs?

Direct examination of the lungs, according to Dr. Reinke, can be difficult and intrusive, although they do contain a large number of blood arteries.

“Therefore, any biochemical changes in the lungs can enter the bloodstream, and then be excreted through the urine,” she explained.

“These are preliminary results, but we will continue to investigate carnitine metabolism to evaluate its potential as a new asthma treatment target.”

Reference: “Urinary metabotype of severe asthma evidences decreased carnitine metabolism independent of oral corticosteroid treatment in the U-BIOPRED study” by Stacey N. Reinke, Shama Naz, Romanas Chaleckis, Hector Gallart-Ayala, Johan Kolmert, Nazanin Z. Kermani, Angelica Tiotiu, David I. Broadhurst, Anders Lundqvist, Henric Olsson, Marika Ström, Åsa M. Wheelock, Cristina Gómez, Magnus Ericsson, Ana R. Sousa, John H. Riley, Stewart Bates, James Scholfield, Matthew Loza, Frédéric Baribaud, Per S. Bakke, Massimo Caruso, Pascal Chanez, Stephen J. Fowler, Thomas Geiser, Peter Howarth, Ildikó Horváth, Norbert Krug, Paolo Montuschi, Annelie Behndig, Florian Singer, Jacek Musial, Dominick E. Shaw, Barbro Dahlén, Sile Hu, Jessica Lasky-Su, Peter J. Sterk, Kian Fan Chung, Ratko Djukanovic, Sven-Erik Dahlén, Ian M. Adcock and Craig E. Wheelock on behalf of the U-BIOPRED Study Group, 30 June 2022, European Respiratory Journal.