Allergies and Asthma
Allergies and asthma strike one out of four Americans. Allergies affect more than 50 million people in the United States and asthma affects approximately 20 million. Asthma and other allergies are usually triggered by an allergen such as pollens or molds. People react to the proteins in these allergens with an antibody made by specialized immune cells that release chemicals which cause sneezing, itching in the nose, eyes and ears, and in rare cases the life-threatening reaction anaphylaxis. Asthma may also be triggered by non-allergic factors such as cold, stress, exercise or some medications.
BRI is studying allergies and asthma to understand how they are caused and to look for better therapies to treat them. In 2005, the Immunology Program at BRI showed that a novel cytokine, Thymic Stromal Lymphopoietin (TSLP) is involved in initiating the inflammatory cascade that leads to the development of asthma and other allergic diseases. Currently, the group is studying the mechanism of TSLP to better understand its biology and how it initiates and promotes disease. The team is also working to determine if interrupting TSLP will have an impact clinically. BRI’s research on TSLP is now extending to other diseases such as atopic dermatitis, scleroderma, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and allergic rhinitis. The hope is to discover successful therapies that will lead to the initiation of clinical trials.
In another program, BRI and the Virginia Mason Asthma and Allergy Clinic are working together to study immune response to environmental allergens. The group will use tetramers, a biomarker developed by BRI, to study cells from individuals who are allergic to cat dander, tree and grass pollen, peanuts, mold and others. The long term hope is to develop a more individualized, specific treatment for allergies that will reduce the risks associated with the use of allergy shots.
Look for clinical research trials for diseases.
For more detailed information, see our Allergies and Asthma Research Fact Sheet