Scientists find the cellular on and off switch for allergies and asthma

Apr 30, 2009

If you're one of the millions who dread the spring allergy season, things are looking up. A research study appearing in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology shows how a team of American scientists have identified a previously unknown cellular switch that turns allergies and asthma both on and off. Equally important, this study also suggests that at least for some people with asthma and allergies, their problems might be caused by genes that prevent this switch from working properly. Taken together, this information is an important first step toward new medications that address the root causes of allergies, asthma and other similar diseases.

"This study uncovers some of the basic mechanisms that control whether or not people have and allergies and the severity of the symptoms," said John Ryan, Ph.D., Professor of Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University, and a senior scientist involved in the research. "This understanding opens new avenues for treating these and other related diseases."

Ryan and colleagues made this discovery in mouse experiments that examined cells from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood that ultimately help create a type of immune cell (mast cells). Too many mast cells lead to an over-aggressive immune response, which causes allergies and asthma. The scientists found that when chemicals (cytokines IL-4 and IL-10) used to initiate an immune response (the "on switch") are added to developing mast cells, the developing cells die. Because bone marrow makes both mast cells and these cytokines, the researchers conclude that just as the cytokines serve as the "on switch" for the , bone marrow cells also use them as the "off switch" to stop mast cells from getting out of hand. Further supporting their discovery was the finding that strains of mice prone to allergies and asthma had which affected the production of this chemical "off " in their bone marrow.

"The immune system has an incredible capacity for balance and counterbalance to maintain optimal and properly tuned immune responses," said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, "The studies by Ryan and colleagues are an excellent example of this inherent self-regulation of the and how an imbalance in mast cell regulation could contribute to and disease."

Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (news : web)

Explore further: Doubt cast over air pollution link between childhood leukemia and power lines

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New discovery may lead to new class of allergy drugs

Jan 29, 2009

If you've ever wondered why some allergic reactions progress quickly and may even become fatal, a new research report published in the February 2009 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology provides an important part of the ...

Protein a possible key to allergy and asthma control

Jan 02, 2008

Activating a protein found on some immune cells seems to halt the cells’ typical job of spewing out substances that launch allergic reactions, a study by Johns Hopkins researchers suggests. The findings could eventually ...

'Knockout' technique tested successfully on mice

Jun 27, 2007

Allergies, like the common cold and asthma, have basically defied the best efforts of modern medicine to cure them. Now, a doctoral candidate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem School of Pharmacy has come ...

Recommended for you

Unlocking the secrets of pulmonary hypertension

3 hours ago

A UAlberta team has discovered that a protein that plays a critical role in metabolism, the process by which the cell generates energy from foods, is important for the development of pulmonary hypertension, a deadly disease.

New molecule sneaks medicines across the blood/brain barrier

8 hours ago

Delivering life-saving drugs across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) might become a little easier thanks to a new report published in the November 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal. In the report, scientists describe an antibo ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.