There are no effective treatments for allergic asthma at the moment, so people suffering from this condition can only be treated symptomatically in order to keep their quality of life from deteriorating. However, a new study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center offers hope for better therapeutic strategies in the future.
The center’s scientists have identified a genetic mechanism that can help determine the severity of allergic asthma. They say that what distinguishes a mild form of the disease from a more severe case is the pro-inflammatory protein called interleukin-17 (IL-17A).
When exposed to an environmental pollutant — such as cigarette smoke — the body produces high levels of IL-17A, which in turn stimulates the expression of a gene called complement factor 3 (C3) that sets off an “amplification loop,” perpetuating increasing inflammatory responses.
“This study suggests that at some point it may be possible to treat or prevent severe forms of asthma by inhibiting pathways that drive the production of IL-17A,” said senior investigator Marsha Wills-Karp, director of the Division of Immunobiology at Cincinnati Children’s.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 7 percent of adults and more than 9 percent of children in the U.S. have asthma.
The results were presented in the Aug. 29 issue of Nature Immunology.