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VBI, Mayo Clinic investigate link between fungal proteins, innate immunity and asthma
Date:2/27/2008

Blacksburg, Va. Researchers at Mayo Clinic and the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) have received a second grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to advance understanding of the role of environmental fungi in chronic airway disorders. Recently NIAID awarded the researchers a further $1.8 million for these studies over a five-year period to investigate how the environmental fungus Alternaria triggers airway inflammation and bronchial asthma. Exposure to the fungus Alternaria has long been implicated in the development and exacerbation of asthma, especially life-threatening asthma, although little is known about the molecular events in the immune system that underlie the etiology and progress of this chronic disease. By understanding how the innate immune system responds to environmental stimuli and helps shape the adaptive immune system, scientists hope in the long term to develop more specific therapies as well as prevention strategies for bronchial diseases.

Principal Investigator Hirohito Kita, M.D., from Mayo Clinic, remarked: In this investigation, we will be looking closely at how fungal enzymes from Alternaria cause innate immune responses in a variety of cells and how they influence nave T cells in the immune system to differentiate into T helper 2 cells or Th2 cells, a process which takes place in partnership with antigen-presenting cells called dendritic cells. Th2 cells are part of the adaptive immune system and are linked to the events that lead to inflammation of the airway. He added: Th2 cells typically produce cytokine signaling molecules or interleukins and the production of these interleukins leads to the recruitment of a specific class of white blood cells (eosinophils) that usually destroy parasitic organisms larger than bacteria or viruses. Mounting evidence suggests that allergic airway disorders such as asthma and chronic sinusitis are actually the result of our bodies believing we a
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Contact: Barry Whyte
whyte@vbi.vt.edu
540-231-1767
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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