Investigators have discovered the precise molecular steps that enable immune cells implicated in certain forms of asthma and allergy to develop and survive in the body.
More than one in 12 Americans are affected by asthma, a disorder characterized by an overactive immune response to normally harmless substances such as pollen or mold.
Scientists had previously discovered that an overabundance of immune cells that help defend the body against parasites and infection, called eosinophils, were implicated in certain forms of asthma, as well as in allergic reactions. But little was known about how eosinophils develop and survive.
In their study, researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College discovered that a signaling pathway, formed by two proteins that help cells survive stressful conditions, also plays a critical role in eosinophil development.
Eosinophils belong to a group of cells called granulocytes, which develop in the bone marrow before migrating into blood.
During early stages of development, these cells produce a large number of proteins that are critical for survival, as well as toxic proteins that are later released in response to an immune trigger, such as bacteria or viruses.
When the investigators altered the function of either of those proteins, the eosinophils, but not other cell types, underwent excess stress and were completely wiped out, suggesting that this pathway could serve as a new therapeutic target for patients who respond poorly to current asthma therapies.
How can stress-fighting proteins be the key for treating asthma?
Sarah Bettigole, PhD, shares how these stress-fighting proteins could be a possible treatment for asthma sufferers.