For the second time in two years, scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered a new type of regulatory T cell that reduces asthma and airway inflammation in mice, bolstering the theory that a deficiency of such cells is a prime cause of the breathing disorder as well as allergies.
The teams research not only provides a detailed profile of these newfound cells but also sheds light on how such cells are related to other T cells and suggests that there exists a spectrum of regulatory T cells, known as Tregs, to be identified and studied. "Its likely that Tregs arent functioning or developing properly in people who suffer from asthma and allergies," said Dale Umetsu, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics who led the research team. "This new understanding of the fine characteristics of regulatory T cells brings us closer to developing therapies that will provide cures for allergies, asthma, and perhaps a number of other diseases involving immune dysregulation," added Umetsu, who is also chief of the division of allergy and immunology at Lucile Packard Childrens Hospital at Stanford.
Humans have a variety of T cells - including regulatory (Tregs), helper (Th) and natural killer (NKTs) - and there are different types within each of those categories. But all of them play a critical role in how, ideally, the human immune system responds when invaded by viruses, bacteria and allergens: the cells fight the enemies - the viruses and bacteria - and ignore the innocuous visitors - the allergens. The problem for allergy and asthma sufferers is that the body responds to allergens as if they were reviled foes, engaging in a full-out battle that inflames airways and impedes breathing.
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