Emerging airway smooth muscle targets to treat asthma
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Asthma is characterized in part by variable airflow obstruction and non-specific hyperresponsiveness to a variety of bronchoconstrictors, both of which are mediated by the airway smooth muscle (ASM). The ASM is also involved in the airway inflammation and airway wall remodeling observed in asthma. For all these reasons, the ASM provides an important target for the treatment of asthma. Several classes of drugs were developed decades ago which targeted the ASM - including β-agonists, anti-cholinergics, anti-histamines and anti-leukotrienes - but no substantially new class of drug has appeared recently. In this review, we summarize the on-going work of several laboratories aimed at producing novel targets and/or tools for the treatment of asthma. These range from receptors and ion channels on the ASM plasmalemma, to intracellular effectors (particularly those related to cyclic nucleotide signaling, calcium-homeostasis and phosphorylation cascades), to anti-IgE therapy and outright destruction of the ASM itself.
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