Study identifies molecule critical to asthma-causing cell’s survival
Scientists led by molecular immunologists at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) have identified a way to target a recently discovered cell type that causes asthma, paving the way to cure the chronic respiratory disease that affects 25 million Americans.
The team, which includes investigators from Janssen Research and Development, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, will publish its results in the March 17 edition of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Immunity.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that irritates and narrows the airways, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With no known cure for the 7 million children who suffer from this disease in the United States, as well as millions of adults, the goal of asthma treatment is to control the symptoms. The exact causes of this chronic disease are unknown, but researchers believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors contribute to developing asthma. Discovered within the last decade, type 2 innate lymphoid cells, or ILC2s, are a subset of immune cells that trigger primary asthma symptoms such as mucus production and hypersensitive airways. ILC2s do not express previously identified immune cell markers, however, making them tough to target.
“If we can target ILC2s, we might be able to cure asthma or exacerbations caused by these particular cells,” said Omid Akbari, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular and cellular immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and principal investigator of the study.
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