Taking oral or inhaled glucocorticoids may be linked to damaging changes in the white matter of the brain, a new study found.
“This study shows that both systemic and inhaled glucocorticoids are associated with an apparently widespread reduction in white matter integrity,” wrote study author Merel van der Meulen, a postdoctoral student at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, in the study published Tuesday in the journal BMJ Open.
White matter is the tissue that forms connections between brain cells and the rest of the nervous system. Having less white matter can slow the brain’s ability to process information, pay attention and remember. Lower levels of white matter have also been connected to psychiatric issues such as depression, anxiety and irritability. “This new study is particularly interesting in showing the extent to which white matter, which is required for neurons to connect with each other, is affected by medication use,” said Thomas Ritz, a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University who has researched the impact of steroids on people with asthma. He was not involved in the study on systemic and inhaled glucocorticoids. Read more here.
Long-Term Asthma Treatment Candidate Passed Early Trials
Scientists have now come up with the beginnings of a potential long-term asthma treatment. Crucially, it doesn’t just try and treat the symptoms of the condition but actually targets one of the causes of those symptoms.
It works by blocking the movement of a type of stem cell called a pericyte. Most often found in the lining of blood vessels, pericytes are known to thicken the airways of people with asthma when an allergic and inflammatory reaction happens, making breathing more difficult.
“By targeting the changes in the airway directly, we hope this approach could eventually offer a more permanent and effective treatment than those already available, particularly for severe asthmatics who don’t respond to steroids,” says biologist and pharmacologist Jill Johnson from Aston University in the UK. Here more here.
Climate Change and Asthma
About 25 million people in the U.S. have asthma, or about one in 13 people, according to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA). While the condition can be hereditary or caused by factors such as respiratory infections and cigarette smoke, the environment can also play a role in people developing asthma.
Climate change, which affects air and water pollution, and ground-level ozone and other air pollutants can trigger asthma flare-ups. Ground-level ozone is created by a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxide and organic compounds when exposed to sunlight and can be emitted from industrial facilities, motor vehicle exhaust and gasoline fumes, according to the AAFA.
People with asthma can also be triggered by an increase in allergens due to climate change. Warmer temperatures increase the concentration of pollen in the air, extending the pollen season, said Dr. Jing Wang, a physician who specializes in pulmonary diseases at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. Read more here.