Six New Grants Fuel Further Investigation of Allergies and Asthma

Seattle, WA

SEATTLE - (Feb. 23, 2009) - Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) received six grants totaling nearly $2 million to increase understanding of Thymic Stromal Lymphopoietin (TSLP), which helps initiate the inflammatory cascade that leads to asthma and other allergies. 

Over the last several years, Steven Ziegler, PhD, and his team have used models of human allergic diseases to show that TSLP is a critical component of the underlying mechanism of allergic disease in the skin and lung. The new grants include studies in food allergies, skin inflammatory responses, helminth infection (“hookworm”) and asthma.

“Manipulation of TSLP could be crucial in developing vaccines and new therapies for these diseases,” said Dr. Ziegler. “Our goal is to translate our lab results to patients and learn which therapies would succeed in treating or eliminating allergy- and asthma-related diseases.”

Food Allergies: Grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Food Allergy Initiative will fund research into TSLP’s role in food allergies. About 6 percent of children suffer from food allergies, with many experiencing an allergic reaction from an accidental exposure. Severe cases can result in life-threatening anaphylaxis, a condition characterized by a drop in blood pressure and difficulty breathing. Approximately 20,000 cases of food-induced anaphylaxis and as many as 150 food anaphylaxis-associated deaths occur in the United Sates each year.

Skin Inflammatory Responses: A grant from the National Institutes of Health will allow investigators to further understand how TSLP is involved in initiating and regulating skin inflammatory responses. A skin allergy, such as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic disease where the skin reacts abnormally and easily to irritants, food and environmental allergens, such as toxins and latex.

Helminth Infection: A grant from the Puget Sound Partners for Global Health will allow investigators to test whether TSLP can regulate response to helminth infections. Helminth or “hookworm infection” is a parasitic disease that infects about 1.2 billion people worldwide.  Children are particularly susceptible due to lower immune response to the infection compared to that of adults and to poor hygiene.

Asthma: Grants from the National Institutes of Health, Asthma and Allergic Disease Cooperative will allow investigators to study how TSLP can be controlled to influence treatment of asthma. Currently, asthma affects approximately 20 million people in the United States including nine million children under the age of 18.

About Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason
Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI), founded in 1956, is an international leader in immune system and autoimmune disease research, translating discoveries to real-life applications. Autoimmune disease happens when the immune system, designed to protect the body, attacks it instead. BRI is one of the few research institutes in the world discovering causes and cures to eliminate autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and many others. Visit for more information about BRI, clinical studies and the more than 80 different types of autoimmune diseases.

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