Innovation

Scientists Find Way To Help Detect, Prevent Asthma, Allergic Diseases Earlier

A new study found a potential way to control or even prevent allergic reactions and asthma from developing. Researchers looked into what naturally gives healthy people the capability to avoid the effects of common allergens. 

The study, published in the journal Science Immunology, shows that nonallergic people do not experience a strong reaction to house dust mites and other allergens potentially because of a previously unknown subset of T cells. Researchers said utilizing the cells may soon help develop new therapies to manage or prevent immune reactions and asthma. 

"We discovered new immune cell subsets and new therapeutic opportunities," Grégory Seumois, co-lead researcher and instructor and director of Sequencing Core at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI), said in a statement. "This new population of cells could be one, out of many unknown mechanisms, that explains why healthy people don't develop inflammation when they breathe in allergens."

The findings come from the analysis of data on immune reactions and allergens from the institute’s Immune Epitope Database. Researchers focused on house dust mites (HDM) due to high rates of exposure compared to other causes of allergies. 

The team also gathered healthy people and those with either asthma or HDM allergy or with combined conditions. To see how T cells respond to dust mites, they used a technique called single-cell RNA-seq that helps analyze specific genes and molecules.

Results showed that people with both HDM allergy and asthma had high levels of a subset of helper T cells, called interleukin (IL)-9 Th2 expressing HDM-reactive cells, in their blood. The IL9-TH2 cells could kill other cells and cause inflammation in some parts of the body. 

Meanwhile, the nonallergic participants appeared with another subset of T cells that support a gene that encodes a protein called TRAIL. Researchers said the protein could help prevent the activation of the harmful helper T cells.

"Now if functional studies confirm this dampening effect, we're curious if there is a way to boost the activation of these T cells or induce their proliferation in asthmatic or allergic populations," Seumois said. "Can we act on those cells very early on, before asthma has developed?"

The researchers hope to see more studies to look into the link between T cells and the development of allergies. They said their findings may help accelerate future asthma and allergy research. 

House Dust Mites These microscopic critters are hard to avoid, which means nearly everyone has been exposed. La Jolla Institute for Immunology

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