The study team, led by Yong-Jun Liu, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, focused on dendritic cells, immune cells that initiate the primary immune response. Dendritic cells come into contact with other immune cells known as T cells, causing them to develop into different subsets of T cells, including helper 1 (Th1) and helper 2 (Th2) cells. These T-cell subsets are involved in protective immune responses, but the Th2 cells can also drive an allergic response. Until now, it was not known how dendritic cells induced T cells to become Th2 cells.
The investigators used dendritic cells isolated from the blood of healthy donors and found that the binding of TSLP to these cells activates a distinct set of signaling pathways within the cells. As a result, the dendritic cells produce messenger molecules that act on the T cells, causing them to develop into Th2 cells.
The study identifies TSLP as a switch that causes the development of the allergic response in people and suggests that this molecule may be a potential therapeutic target to treat and prevent allergic diseases.
NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH)—The Nation's Medical Research Agency—includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov
Julie Wu | EurekAlert!
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