(Philadelphia, PA) – Up until now, if you
suffer from asthma, medication has been the only treatment available
to you for relief. But now, clinical researchers at the Hospital
of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) hope to open up
a new avenue to alleviate the debilitating symptoms of asthma –
through an investigative bronchoscopic procedure where the smooth
muscle of the airway, which causes the spasm, is reduced using thermal
“Even though the smooth muscle in your airway serves no identifiable
purpose, when something does go wrong with it, it can cause problems,”
explains Ali Musani, MD, an interventional pulmonologist
at Penn and principal investigator of the study. “It can constrict,
tighten, and narrow the airway considerably -- causing real health
consequences for asthmatics.”
pulmonologists will explore, for the first time in the United States,
a new way to treat asthma. Physicians will actually go into the
airways with a bronchoscope, which is a routine procedure, and by
generating and applying thermal energy, will reduce areas of underlying
smooth muscle in the small to medium size airways with a new medical
device. The Alair® System – which is manufactured by Asthmatx,
Inc. – consists of a single-use device and a controller that
delivers thermal energy to the bronchial wall during an outpatient
bronchoscopic procedure known as Bronchial Thermoplasty™.
The system, which has an expandable wire basket at the tip, consists
of four arms that come in contact with and fit snugly against the
airway wall. The expanded basket then delivers controlled radio
frequency energy for about 10 seconds to heat the airway smooth
muscle. Once the treatment session is completed, the device and
the bronchoscope are removed. The controlled heat is designed to
reduce the amount of airway smooth muscle in the airway wall, thus
reducing the ability of the airway walls to contract and narrow
and spasm in response to irritation, infection or inflammation.
“This is a minimally invasive procedure performed in a bronchoscopy
suite,” says Maureen George, PhD, RN, AE-C,
Coordinator, Comprehensive Asthma Care Program in the Pulmonary,
Allergy and Critical Care Division at HUP. “The procedure
itself takes only about an hour to complete and no general anesthesia
is used. This is done on an outpatient basis as a bronchoscopic
procedure, with conscious sedation (in which a tube is placed through
the mouth or nose and positioned into the lungs). There is no incision
and no need to stay overnight."
During the clinical trial, physicians will treat one-third of the
lungs in each treatment period for three treatment sessions total.
Also, patients who are currently highly medicated will stay on their
medication for the duration of the study.
In this country, severe asthmatics are a major health problem.
It’s predicted that 40-50% of adults suffer from asthma leading
to lost days at work. Asthma is a common disease in which the airways
in the lung become inflamed, excess airway mucus is produced, and
airways narrow when muscles within the airway walls contract. Asthma
affects more than 20 million people in the U.S.
“There’s no expectation that this new procedure will
cure asthma but we’re hopeful it will be useful in reducing
the severity and frequency of asthma symptoms and help to improve
the quality of life for asthma sufferers,” comments Musani.
Penn researchers have received approval to begin the AIR 2 (Asthma
Interventional Research) clinical trial and are now enrolling patients.
If you have asthma, are between 18 and 65 years of age, and are
a non-smoker, you may be eligible to participate in this study.
The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania is the only site
involved in this trial in the state and will eventually be one of
20 sites nationally.
Editor's Note: Drs. Ali Musani and Maureen George
have no financial interest in Asthmatx. The study is sponsored by
For questions about enrolling in the Air2Trial at Penn, call (866)
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