Professor Alastair Stewart issues this advice on World Asthma Day

SBS Lung Health Research Centre at the forefront of work to improve the accuracy of measuring inflammation activity in asthma.

The flu season has hit – not good news for the 2.7 million Australians living with asthma.

Viral infections are a common trigger of inflammation in the lungs, which means now is the perfect time for patients, doctors and researchers alike to pause and evaluate asthma treatment plans, says University of Melbourne’s Professor Alastair Stewart.

Today (7 May) marks World Asthma Day, and this year’s theme, STOP, raises awareness about the importance of taking these steps:

  • Symptom evaluation
  • Test response
  • Observe and assess
  • Proceed to adjust treatment

Professor Stewart, Co-Director of the Lung Health Research Centre at the School of Biomedical Sciences, and his team are also working on a number of ways to improve the accuracy of measuring inflammation activity in asthma.

“The ARC Centre for Personalized Therapeutics Technologies is developing new ways of measuring the intensity of inflammation within the airspaces in the lungs,” explains Professor Stewart.

“The techniques involve micro-sampling of gases and sputum from patients to measure chemicals that indicate how well the patient’s asthma is being treated.”

In separate work, growing the lung lining cells (the epithelium) in organoids on-a-chip allows researchers to test how new medications might change the levels of the inflammatory chemicals.

While a collaboration with CSL Ltd is focused on measuring the number of inflammatory cells in the sputum to see how well this measures asthma severity.

Last year, research into steroid resistance in asthmatics by Professor Stewart and others showed the molecular process that triggers steroid resistance in an unlikely place – our body clocks. And they found a way to stop it in an even unlikelier place, a compound that was being developed in an attempt to treat people with drug and alcohol addictions.

Since then, researchers are working on safety testing on new clock inhibitors, which will focus on delivery of the drug directly to the lung using an aerosol. 

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