The current study involved mice bred genetically to closely resemble people susceptible to severe asthma. Mouse airways were exposed to house dust mite allergen extract to gauge the severity of disease and analyze biochemical responses in airway tissues.
One group of mice was deficient in the immune system gene C5, which normally prevents harmful airway immune responses to inhaled environmental allergens. These mice generated high numbers of T helper cells (known specifically in this instance as TH17 cells) that produced significant IL-17A and caused airway hyper-responsiveness. When researchers blocked IL-17A production in this group, the mice had less airway hyper-responsiveness.
A second group of mice was deficient in the C3aR gene (a receptor for C3), which regulates the dysfunctional response to airway allergens that lead to asthma. These mice had fewer IL-17A producing TH17 cells and less airway hyper-responsiveness. When researchers increased the amount of IL-17A in the airways of this group, the mice experienced greater airway hyper-responsiveness.
As Dr. Wills-Karp and her colleagues continue their research, they will study the relationship between C3 and IL-17A in severe asthmatics, and explore the effectiveness of targeting either the C3 or IL-17A pathways for the treatment of severe asthma. A drug that blocks the function of C3 is currently under development and testing outside of Cincinnati Children's for treatment of the eye disease macular degeneration.
|Contact: Nick Miller|
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center