University of Michigan researchers identify cells resistant to asthma treatments
Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System have discovered the type of cell that appears to cause asthma symptoms even when treated by medicine from an inhaler.
The findings may help scientists develop new treatment options, and could assist in identifying asthma patients at risk of becoming resistant to steroid treatments, U-M officials said on Monday.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition in which air passages are inflamed, affecting the nerve endings in the airways so they are easily irritated.
During an asthma attack the lining of airway passages swell and become narrower, reducing the flow of air in and out of the lungs.
University of Michigan researchers Nicholas Lukacs, Ph.D. and Bryan Petersen, a student in the school’s Medical Scientist Training Program, found a type of white blood cell by studying mice that has shown to be crucial in inflaming airways, according to a U-M news release.
The “T2M” or type 2 myeloid cell receives distress proteins sent out by other cells in the lining of the lungs, which triggers a response of further inflammation.
The white blood cells have given the same reaction even when exposed to a steroid medication - like that administered by an inhaler.
A type of cell similar to the mice’s T2M cell was identified in humans by U-M asthma and allergy specialist Dr. Alan Baptist during the study.
People with asthma that participated in the study had higher amount of the cells in their blood stream, officials said. The human cells also had a similar distress protein, which is the subject of much study by asthma researchers and pharmaceutical companies.
Researchers are continuing to explore the role of the distress protein and its triggers. Viruses that infect the lungs often cause the release of the protein, which is a known cause of asthma attacks.
There is no predictive course of disease when it comes to asthma, Lukacs wrote in an email to AnnArbor.com, explaining trigger factors for treatment resistance are unknown.
Lukacs cautioned that it's still too early to tell if the cells identified in the study can be specifically targeted in humans.
There may be an upcoming clinical trial to further the research initiated by the study to further its clinical relevance.
"The identification of this novel cell population may provide a diagnostic tool to better define patients to provide appropriate treatment options," Lukacs wrote in an email.
The university is currently seeking a patent for the research and industry partners for commercialization.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.