According to Penn State College of Medicine researchers, people with asthma have identifying molecules circulating in their blood, which is a finding that may lead to the first diagnostic blood test for asthma and more targeted treatments. Faoud T. Ishmael, MD, PhD, and his research team examined microRNAs (miRNAs) in the blood of 79 people, who included asthmatics, people with nasal allergies but not asthma, and people with no nasal allergies and no asthma. The results were published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Honing in on 30 miRNAs important in asthma and allergies, the research team found different expression patterns among the three groups. Based on these patterns, the researchers were able to predict with 91% accuracy whether or not a person had asthma, a discovery that may lead to the development of a diagnostic blood test.

“We found that there was a subset of these miRNAs that were unique to asthma, and that we could use them to predict if someone had it based on if they were high or low compared to the other two groups,” Ishmael said. “There’s a different molecular fingerprint if you have asthma compared to if you have allergic rhinitis or neither.” A Science Daily news report notes that within asthmatics there were two main clusters of miRNA expression that correlated with different levels of eosinophil immune cells.

Ishmael says, “Eosinophils play very important roles in some kind of allergic reactions, and they might have implications for how people respond to some of the treatments that are already on the market for asthma. We think this may be useful technology to distinguish between some of these different sub-types so we know from the beginning when a treatment won’t work for a patient.”

The research team plans to further investigate the role of different miRNAs in asthma and find out what happens when those molecules are inhibited. In addition, the researchers are also working to validate the diagnostic value of miRNA testing for asthma in a larger group of people. Ishmael explains, “Our goal is to have a blood test for asthma developed in the next five years. You might be able to take a drop of blood from a finger stick and analyze it in the clinic to determine whether someone has asthma at that visit. That would be the ultimate goal.”

Source: Science Daily