Immune signals may be target for asthma

KING’S COLLEGE LONDON (UK) — Scientists have found that an immune response—previously only attributed to inflammatory conditions like multiple sclerosis—has a significant link to asthma.

Until now, the Th2 response was believed to be the predominant immune response behind asthma symptoms because of its association with allergic inflammation.
A new study published in the journal Mucosal Immunology, however, uncovers the role of Th17, which is coordinated by a specific type of white blood cell that produces lung-damaging molecules.


Asthma is often triggered by an immune response mounted against an inhaled allergen, which leads to inflammation or swelling in the airways. The new research highlights the connection between Th17 and airway remodeling in asthma, which involves structural changes and thickening of the airways.

These changes make the lungs susceptible to severe asthma attacks by disrupting the control mechanisms that prevent asthma in healthy individuals.

Alistair Noble, and colleagues in the Division of Asthma, Allergy, and Lung Biology at King’s College London, tested the contribution of the Th17 response to lung inflammation, following prolonged exposure to an allergen.

The results suggest that these cells play an important role in people with persistent asthma symptoms, particularly in those whose symptoms do not respond to treatment with steroids.

“We’re extremely excited about the results of this research, as they point to immune signals that could be targeted to reduce airway remodeling. This could guide the use of new medicines that block the Th17 response in certain groups of people with severe asthma,” Noble says.

“As well as generating new information on the causes of severe asthma, these results suggest significant treatment possibilities, particularly for those individuals for whom conventional steroid therapies just don’t work,” adds Leanne Metcalf, assistant director of research and practice at Asthma UK, who funded the research.

“Most importantly, pursuing these lines of enquiry could have a dramatic impact on the lives of tens of thousands of people living with asthma in the UK.”

Source: King’s College London