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Immune system pathway identified to fight allergens, asthma
Date:5/7/2008

PITTSBURGH, May 7 For the first time, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have identified genetic components of dendritic cells that are key to asthma and allergy-related immune response malfunction. Targeting these elements could result in more effective drugs to treat allergic disorders and asthma, according to a study reported in the May edition of the journal Nature Medicine.

Dendritic cells are vital to immune response in that they recognize, capture and introduce threatening organisms to T lymphocytesother immune cells that secrete potent proteins called cytokines that surround and destroy the invaders. However, the Pittsburgh teams study goes further to illuminate a pathway that allergens use to act directly on dendritic cells to propel differentiation into the T lymphocytes that fight back.

We now have identified a molecule, c-Kit, that is central to the process of allergic response, said Anuradha Ray, Ph.D., co-corresponding author and professor of medicine and immunology in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. We show that genes encoding for c-Kit and the cytokine interleukin 6 (IL-6) are significantly activated when allergens are present, but c-Kit is the very first molecule that gets triggered.

Interactions between viruses and bacteria and molecular steps that initiate the immune defense have remained largely unknown. Using cells cultured from c-Kit mutant mice, Dr. Ray, her husband and co-corresponding author Prabir Ray, Ph.D., and their colleagues studied molecular reactions to assaults by cholera toxin and a standard allergen, house dust mites. In addition to c-Kit and IL-6, they found effects on stem cell factor and Jagged-2immune system molecules that are parts of the activation process.

We have known the T-cell side of the story for many years, and we know that dendritic cells are important, but what we did
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Contact: Michele Baum
BaumMD@upmc.edu
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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