A few days ago, I learned of a fascinating clinical trial that could have implications for people with asthma. The description is on this site.
Here's the deal. Beyond the inflammation that occurs with asthma, the muscular spasm that makes it difficult to breathe is a serious problem. In this trial a catheter that emits RF radiation is used to deliver bronchial thermoplasty that actually reduces the size and functioning of the smooth muscles in the airways that is the home of those spasms.
I know this sounds a bit odd, but apparently the smooth muscle in our airways is vestigial, from the time mammals were amphibious and needed to close their airways while diving under water. (Actually whales still use those muscles to expel water when they surface.) So, if you zap this muscle with RF, it is reduced in size and put out of business. In that state, it cannot create the kind of spasms from which asthmatic people suffer.
The procedure is still in trials, but I thought it was interesting enough to pass along to you. If it works as presented, it could be a huge development in the treatment of this very pervasive disease. Also, if it works as presented, this would be one of those medical developments that actually offers a reduction in the cost of health care.
Addendum on July 16: It has come to my attention that BIDMC has had commercial relationships with the company engaged in these trials. I was not aware of this before today, and I apologize for not mentioning it in my original post. I will consult with the BIDMC contracts office from now on before discussing new therapies and devices on this blog.