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Scientists discover new type of cell with a key role in treatment-resistant asthma

of granulocyte that hadn't been observed before. They found that when these cells received IL-25 signals, they pumped out more inflammation-promoting cytokines called IL-4 and IL-13 that drive hallmarks of asthma such as mucus formation.

What's more, the cells could still do this in the presence of a steroid medication. And, the researchers showed they could essentially give steroid-resistant asthma to an animal that didn't have it or IL-25 receptors, by transferring the cells to their lungs.

They then partnered with U-M asthma and allergy specialist Alan Baptist, M.D., an assistant professor of internal medicine, to see if T2M-like cells could be found in humans.

They recruited volunteers both with and without asthma, and drew small amounts of blood from their arms. Sure enough, cells of a very similar type as that found in mice, with very similar proteins on their cell surface, showed up in higher amounts in the blood of the asthma sufferers.

Despite these results, Lukacs cautioned, "It's still too early to say that we could target these cells in humans. But because of the industry interest in IL-25 and its receptors, these results give that line of inquiry more fuel." Lukacs is also assistant dean for research at the U-M Medical School.

Petersen, who is also earning a medical degree as well as the doctorate he recently defended, notes that more research volunteers will be needed to explore the cells' role in humans. He, Lukacs and Baptist hope to open a new clinical trial soon that would allow both people with asthma and those without to aid the research.

"While we've verified that this cell can be seen in people with asthma, we need to find out in a large group if it is more prominent in people with more severe, treatment-resistant forms of the disease and even whether it could help define the characteristics of someone who will eventually develop that form of asthma," he says.

Meanwhile, the

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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