Common asthma medication could prevent liver disease

A drug regularly used to treat asthma and allergies may be helpful in protecting the liver from damage and could one day help reduce the demand for liver transplants, according to a recent study published in the journal Hepatology.

For the study, researchers used a laboratory model to simulate human primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic disease that damages bile ducts and causes serious liver damage. In the models, researchers closely evaluated mast cells, which multiply after liver injury and release histamine, a compound that causes fibrosis, or liver scarring.

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Using cromolyn sodium, a medication commonly delivered to asthmatics via inhalers, researchers were able to block the fibrosis-causing histamine.

"If you base it off these studies, the possibility of reducing or preventing fibrosis in patients could be very high," said Heather L. Bradley-Francis, PhD, an investigator at the Digestive Disease Research Center at Baylor Scott & White Health headquartered in Dallas.

Dr. Bradley-Francis added that, though the results are promising, enthusiasm should be tempered. "We need to perform additional experiments to ensure that we are giving a dose that would be tolerable to humans," she said.

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