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Study of New Cell May Lead to New Treatments for Asthma, Other Allergies

A collaboration between scientists at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and in the United Kingdom has identified new processes that lead to the development of a novel cell (the nuocyte) implicated in allergies. The discovery has the potential to spawn new strategies to treat asthma and other allergic diseases. The research findings were published in the March 2012 issue of Nature Immunology. The work was performed by Professor Padraic Fallon, Science Foundation Ireland Stokes Professor of Translational Immunology of TCD's School of Medicine, Dr. Andrew McKenzie of the Medical Research Council Laboratory for Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, and colleagues. The number of people with allergic disease, such as asthma and atopic dermatitis, is increasing globally with Irish children having the fourth highest incidence of asthma in the world. A major area of research in developing new strategies to treat allergic diseases is directed towards increasing understanding of the processes and cells involved in causing allergic inflammation. Professor Fallon and colleagues previously discovered a new white blood cell (the nuocyte) that initiates the early generation of the immune responses that can lead to asthma or other allergic conditions. In the current study, a new pathway for the development of nuocytes was identified and a transcription factor, RORalpha, was shown to be critical for both the generation of nuocytes and of allergic-like inflammation. This new finding identifies targets for allergic diseases that could be developed into new therapeutic strategies. [Press release] [Nature Immunology abstract]