Assessing Small Airway Disease Heterogeneity in Asthma to Identify Novel Therapeutic Targets

Asthma is a serious public health issue in Canada and in the world, affecting more than 300 million people globally. To date, clinical trials have established that current treatment strategies for asthma can relieve patient symptoms, but none are able to reverse the disease process. It is known that in asthmatic lungs, the airways -tubes that allow air to flow in and out of the lungs for breathing – are continually injured and scarred in a process called fibrosis. The smallest airways in the asthmatic lung are the main sites of fibrosis and thought to have the greatest contribution to disease symptoms; however, current methods used to assess asthma are unable to provide information on the smallest airways.

Assessing these smaller airways could provide new ways to develop drugs to resolve the scarring that occurs in asthma. In this project, we will use new, more powerful imaging methods to determine the contribution of the small airways scarring in asthma and to identify the genes involved in this process. We will then develop laboratory models of the disease using patient lung cells that may be used in the future to develop new drugs to target the genes involved and resolve the scarring and blockade in the airways of asthmatic patients. The potential new drugs that will be found in this research will help to relieve the burden of asthma in BC.