PHILADELPHIA - A pandemic of ailments called the "allergic march" -- the gradual acquisition of overlapping allergic diseases that commonly begins in early childhood -- has frustrated both parents and physicians. For the last three decades, an explosion of eczema, food allergies, hay fever, and asthma have afflicted children in the United States, the European Union, and many other countries.
What causes the march and how to derail it has remained elusive. Now, in this week's Nature, David Artis, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and a team of collaborating international scientists, identified that expression of the protein TSLP may influence susceptibility to multiple allergic diseases by regulating the maturation of basophils, an uncommon type of white blood cell. Specifically, TSLP elicits the maturation of a population of distinct basophils that promotes allergic inflammation.
"A fundamental question regarding the allergic march is if a child has eczema, for example, which is associated with TSLP production in skin cells, why would some of those children subsequently be more susceptible to other allergic diseases at different sites of the body such as the gut or the lung?" asks Artis. "Although we have known that TSLP is associated with allergic diseases for many years, how this biological messenger might influence multiple allergic diseases has been a puzzle."
The origins of the present study lie in previous reports that showed that different versions of the gene encoding TSLP, an inflammation-producing cytokine, are associated with increased susceptibility to multiple allergic disorders, and that exaggerated TSLP production is associated with asthma, eczema, and food allergies in children. Together, these studies indicate that TSLP could be a critical regulator of multiple cytokine-associated allergic inflammatory diseases.
|Contact: Karen Kreeger|
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine