Whether or not people develop asthma may be determined in the first few weeks after birth according to a study of mice funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). The study suggests that microbes in the lungs stimulate the newborn's immune system.
Our lungs were long considered to be germfree and sterile. It was only recently discovered that, like our intestines and skin, our respiratory organs are colonised by bacteria. Now, tests conducted on mice by researchers working with Benjamin Marsland at the University Hospital in Lausanne have shown that these lung microbes offer protection against allergic asthma (*).
The researchers exposed the mice to an extract obtained from house dust mites. Neonates had a much stronger allergic reaction to the extract than older mice. Why? The lungs in newborn mice have not yet been colonised by the microbes that alter the immune system and make its responses less prone to allergic reactions.
Two-week adaptation process
The researchers have discovered that the process of colonisation and adaptation takes place during the first two weeks of the mouse's life. Young mice that were kept completely germ-free remained susceptible to asthma and had excessive immune responses to dust mite allergens even later in life.
Marsland and his team have already started studying whether lung microbes ensure healthy airways in humans as well. Pilot studies involving newborn babies in Switzerland and New Zealand indicate that the situation may be similar for men and mice. Further studies are required, however, to identify the potential mechanisms in humans.
Focus on newborns
"There would appear to be a developmental window early in life that determines whether or not an individual will develop asthma later," Marsland says. Until now, scientists and doctors have focused on asthma essentially from the point of view of the course of the disease and possible direct triggers. "We should probably focus on a much earlier stage, that of newborns."
What Marsland wants to know now is how big the developmental window is for building up the immune system in childhood. He hopes that the new discovery will help prevent asthma. Perhaps by encouraging pregnant women to eat more fruit and vegetables - quite recently Marsland showed that the dietary fibre contained in these foodstuffs also protects against allergic asthma by altering the microbial flora. That protection might be passed on to newborn babies.
(*) Eva Gollwitzer, Sejal Saglani, Aurélien Trompette, Koshika Yadava, Rebekah Sherburn, Kathy McCoy, Laurent Nicod, Clare Lloyd & Benjamin Marsland (2014). Lung microbiota promotes tolerance to allergens in neonates via PD-L1. Nature Medicine online. doi:10.1038/nm.3568
(journalists can obtain a pdf file from the SNSF by writing to: email@example.com)
Prof Benjamin J. Marsland
Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV)
Tel: +41 21 314 13 78
Media Abteilung Kommunikation | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
ARTORG and Inselspital develop artificial pancreas
26.11.2015 | Universitätsspital Bern
Laboratory study: Scientists from Cologne explore a new approach to prevent newborn epilepsies
24.11.2015 | Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen e.V. (DZNE)
Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.
Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...
Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.
In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...
In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.
Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...
Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...
25.11.2015 | Event News
17.11.2015 | Event News
21.10.2015 | Event News
27.11.2015 | Press release
27.11.2015 | Life Sciences
27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences