Cho examines allergy and asthma link

Josalyn Cho, MD, assistant professor in Pulmonary, Critical Care and Occupational Medicine, received a two-year, $275K R21 grant from the NIH for her project “Airway Dendritic Cells in the Allergic Asthma Phenotype.” Cho’s team will investigate dendritic cells in the lungs of allergic patients with and without asthma to understand how these cells contribute to disease.

Dendritic cells stimulate T helper type 2 cells (Th2) to produce inflammation. However, researchers have not previously studied how dendritic cells respond to allergens in the human airway, and the role of these cells in asthma is incompletely understood.

“Most asthma is allergic in origin, and the strongest risk factor for allergic asthma is allergy. Although not all allergic patients have asthma, many develop the disease over time, suggesting there are incremental and potentially reversible stages in the development of allergic asthma,” Cho said, adding that identifying differences between allergic non-asthmatics and allergic asthmatics could lead to a better understanding of the disease and to new treatments.

Using a bronchoscope-delivered allergen challenge in one segment of the lung, Cho’s team will mimic an asthma attack in both allergic asthmatics and the control group to study the secondary immune response to allergen. The overall goal of Cho’s study is to discover new therapeutic targets that might induce remission of asthma.

“Our preliminary data suggests that a subset of lung dendritic cells may be more activated at baseline in allergic asthmatics compared to allergic non-asthmatics and that allergic asthmatics have higher levels of Th2-type cytokines and IgE in the airways following allergen exposure,” Cho said. “We hypothesize that dendritic cells contribute to asthma pathogenesis through their interactions with Th2 cells in the airway mucosa, and that disrupting these interactions could modify the disease.”

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