Nuvaira deploys a ground-breaking therapy called targeted lung denervation. It’s based on the discovery that a faulty nerve that runs from the brain to the lungs may be partly to blame for asthma flare-ups.
For many years, the illness was thought to be due solely to the immune system overreacting to allergens – such as pollen – or viruses, like a cold. But scientists now know it can also be worsened by problems with the vagus nerve – a twisting bundle of pathways running from the chest to the brain.
Branches of the vagus nerve control the muscles in the airways that manage the breathing. In healthy lungs, the nerve sends signals to the muscles to ensure they contract and relax smoothly, allowing the airways to inhale and exhale properly.
But if the nerves are faulty, these muscles become overactive. As they tighten more and relax less, the airways become narrowed and breathing becomes harder. Destroying these branches of the vagus nerve blocks the faulty signals, stopping the muscles in the airways from tightening and allowing more air to pass into the lungs.
Denervation involves the patient being given a general anaesthetic and a device called a bronchoscope being inserted through the mouth and into the lungs.
[Nuvaira] has already proved successful in treating patients who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder – a severe breathing problem often, but not always, caused by smoking.
Now 30 asthma patients at hospitals in the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, including some treated on the NHS, will receive the therapy as part of a three-year clinical trial.
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