Is An Asthma Cure Not Too Far Away? New Study Evaluates Genetic And Environmental Factors

First Posted: Mar 10, 2015 02:33 PM EDT

New findings published in the journal Immunity examine a new potential for curing asthma. According to the study authors, a group of molecular immunologists at the Keck School of medicine of the University of Southern California (USC), along with investigators from Janssen Research and Development, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, believe this chronic lung disease could be eradicated with the help of a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Just within the last decade, type 2 innate lymphoid cells, otherwise known as ILC2s, or a subset of immune cells that trigger primary asthma symptoms including mucus production and hypersensitive airways, were discovered. However, these cells do not express previously identified immune cell markers, making them particularly difficult 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, in a news release. "In this study, we discovered molecules critical to ILC2 homeostasis, survival and function. We believe that targeting these molecules or related pathways could one day cure a patient with ILC2-dependent asthma."

Researchers used both mouse and human cells to help inducible T cell costimulator molecules (ICOS) and interaction with ICOS-ligand (ICOS-L), which are crucial for ILC2 function and survival. From there, they developed a humanized mouse model to demonstrate how human ILC2s can function in vivo, which is currently being used to show how ILC2s contribute to human asthma.

"Because ILC2s are the only cells that express both ICOS and ICOS-L, our research sets the stage for designing new therapeutic approaches that target ILC2s to treat asthma," concluded Hadi Maazi, D.V.M., Ph.D., a research associate in Akbari's lab and the study's first author.

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