Identified: Switch that turns on allergic disease in people

Jan 20, 2010

A new study in human cells has singled out a molecule that specifically directs immune cells to develop the capability to produce an allergic response. The signaling molecule, called thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), is key to the development of allergic diseases such as asthma, atopic dermatitis (eczema) and food allergy.

The study team, led by Yong-Jun Liu, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, focused on , immune cells that initiate the primary immune response. Dendritic cells come into contact with other known as T cells, causing them to develop into different subsets of T cells, including helper 1 (Th1) and helper 2 (Th2) cells. These T-cell subsets are involved in protective immune responses, but the can also drive an allergic response. Until now, it was not known how dendritic cells induced T cells to become Th2 cells.

The investigators used dendritic cells isolated from the blood of healthy donors and found that the binding of TSLP to these cells activates a distinct set of signaling pathways within the cells. As a result, the dendritic cells produce messenger molecules that act on the T cells, causing them to develop into Th2 cells.

The study identifies TSLP as a switch that causes the development of the allergic response in people and suggests that this molecule may be a potential to treat and prevent allergic diseases.

Dr. Liu and his colleagues are supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The investigators are with the Asthma and Cooperative Research Centers program, now in its fourth decade of continuous funding as the cornerstone of NIAID's asthma and allergy research portfolio.

Explore further: Carcinogenic role of a protein in liver decoded

More information: K Arima et al. Distinct signal codes generate dendritic cell functional plasticity. Science Signaling. DOI:10.1126/scisignal.2000567

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Immune system pathway identified to fight allergens, asthma

May 07, 2008

For the first time, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have identified genetic components of dendritic cells that are key to asthma and allergy-related immune response malfunction. Targeting ...

Allergy molecule identified

Jul 02, 2007

A vital molecule for resistance to food allergy has been identified and offers a potential target for therapy.

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 ...

Farm moms may help children beat allergies

May 20, 2008

Mothers exposed to farms, particularly to barns and farm milk, while pregnant confer protection from allergies on their newborns, according to a group of German researchers, who will present their findings at the American ...

Recommended for you

Gamers helping in Ebola research

5 hours ago

Months before the recent Ebola outbreak erupted in Western Africa, killing more than a thousand people, scientists at the University of Washington's Institute for Protein Design were looking for a way to stop the deadly virus.

Carcinogenic role of a protein in liver decoded

7 hours ago

The human protein EGFR controls cell growth. It has mutated in case of many cancer cells or exists in excessive numbers. For this reason it serves as a point of attack for target-oriented therapies. A study ...

A new way to diagnose malaria, using magnetic fields

Aug 31, 2014

Over the past several decades, malaria diagnosis has changed very little. After taking a blood sample from a patient, a technician smears the blood across a glass slide, stains it with a special dye, and ...

User comments : 0