CPAP study shows hope for asthma patients

Nichelle Jones is taking part in the CPAP study.
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Researchers hope they have found a groundbreaking treatment for asthma patients.

The condition is scary for patients, who at times gasp for air, and it's costly for companies and schools, as it leads to an average of 15 sick days per year.

Taking Trixie for her daily walk is one of the simple tasks that 39-year-old Nichelle Jones says became more difficult because her asthma interfered with breathing.

"Feeling almost like someone is sitting on your chest. If you can't get a full, deep breath, it's very strained," Jones said.

She was increasing her use of medication and inhalers and worried the challenges with breathing could impact her job.

"I am a fitness instructor and I would notice teaching a class I couldn't get through a song I normally could," Jones said.

So in hopes of more relief, Jones enrolled in an American Lung Association trial at St. Vincent Asthma Clinical Research Center.

"What we are trying to learn is a new and novel treatment for asthma," said St. Vincent Principal Investigator Dr. Michael Busk.

St. Vincent is one of 18 centers participating in a National Institute of Health Phase II trial, which is enrolling 192 patients nationwide to see if the use of CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, commonly used to treat patients with sleep apnea, could benefit asthma patients, too.

"What is really good about this treatment is that you are being treated at night with clean, filtered air and there are no medications. This is a treatment that is as natural as you can get," Busk said.

"That was very important to me. I didn't want to be a guinea pig of a medication that may or may not do weird things to me later," Jones said.

She agreed to sleep with the machine for 12 weeks. It was awkward at first.

"The machine is not cute. I don't like wearing it," she laughed. "My husband is not a huge fan, but he sees me not coughing and gasping and those types of things, so he is okay with it."

"We have these good medications, but we are not getting the adherence we would like to see for the treatment of asthma and also with CPAP, we are hitting it at a different pathway for asthma. We are hitting it at the beginning of the cause of asthma," Busk said.

After one month, it's been a game changer for Jones. She is teaching Zumba and doesn't want the trial to end.

"Better. Just feel better. I don't want to give it back! Like, when it's over, I don't want to give the machine back, because I am feeling better," Jones said.

If you would like to learn more about the trial at the St. Vincent Asthma Clinical Research Center and compensation, click here or call 317-338-8030. Local contacts for asthma patients 15-60 years old are Kimberly Sunblad ( and Debra Weiss (