Canadian Lung Association Blog

Asthma Research at the University of Saskatchewan

Dr.Cockroft and blog

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan have been studying diagnostic methods and new treatments for asthma, particularly allergic asthma, for more than 25 years.  Don Cockcroft, MD and myself, Beth Davis, PhD carry out clinical trials testing novel therapies for the treatment of asthma as part of a collaborative with 5 other research centers across Canada as well as one additional center in Sweden.  This group, the Clinical Investigator Collaborative, part of the AllerGen NCE Network, will be entering its ninth year of performing Industry driven clinical trials using their expertise in bronchoprovocation methods to study new molecules being developed for the treatment of asthma.  For more information on clinical trials click here.  Some highlights of the research sponsored by pharmaceutical companies included evaluation of a completely new approach to asthma treatment and a new ultra long-acting medication to reduce airflow resistance in the lungs.

The U of S Researchers admit that brainstorming an idea and testing your own hypothesis provides the most satisfaction.  Over the years the lab has produced some interesting findings including:

  1. Regular use of short-acting β2 agonist can cause an increase in how the airway responds to allergen and a loss in the protective effects against other stimuli such as methacholine;
  2. Inhaling methacholine with deep inhalations produces different test results than inhaling methacholine using two minute tidal breathing methodology.  This can lead to false negative test results which may be important in determining whether or not an individual has asthma; and
  3. Taking a specific antihistamine tablet together with a leukotriene receptor-antagonists tablet a few hours before being exposed to an allergen can prevent this allergy from triggering your asthma.

The lab is currently working on an Masters of Science (MSc.) student project and an undergraduate honors student project.  The MSc. project is studying how allergen exposure changes the airway response to other stimuli the results of which may change how we think about the mechanisms of bronchoconstricting stimuli.  The other project is assessing whether or not antihistamines influence the airway response to methacholine challenge and will provide data to support or update current guidelines for withdrawing antihistamines prior to methacholine challenge testing.

Finding study participants/volunteers is probably the biggest challenge the lab faces.   The keenest individuals are usually those who, for one reason or another, do not meet study entry criteria.  If you or someone you know may be interested in getting involved, keep an eye on the University of Saskatchewan Asthma Research Lab website for current projects and contact information.

Don was funded by the Lung Association from 1996-2006 – Ferguson Professorship.

I was funded by the Lung Association from 2010 to 2012 – Moorhead New Investigator Award.

Beth Davis, Ph.D. – Lung Association of SK guest author

Beth Davis

Top photo: Dr. Don Cockroft working in his lab.

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