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article imageNew finding offers clues about emerging asthma

By Tim Sandle     Aug 20, 2013 in Science
Data suggests that a common blood-clotting protein plays a role in allergic asthma. The protein interacts with the immune system triggering respiratory attacks.
Asthma symptoms triggered by allergies are marked by inflammation of the respiratory tract. Such attacks can leave a person gasping for breath, together with the symptoms of coughing and wheezing. There are many factors that lead to an immune overreaction that can cause asthma including reaction to certain enzymes in fungi and other allergens.
To show the new involvement of the blood protein a study was conducted. For the study, as The Independent notes, a team of scientists induced allergic asthma attacks in mice by exposing the animals to enzymes found in molds, which are common fungal allergens. These enzymes break down a blood-clotting protein in the body called fibrinogen. The resulting shards of fibrinogen then bind to and activate a protein found on immune cells and other cells lining the airways. That in turn triggers inflammation, which is the hallmark of allergic asthma.
Further studies, Medical Express notes, showed that this fibrinogen cleaving inhibited fungal infection in the mice. On this basis the scientists suspect asthma is a protective response against fungi in many people. However, in others people it becomes an aberrant response induced by extreme sensitivity to the enzymes. This was shown through further studies, where the researchers prevented fibrinogen breakdown, the mice had a reduced reaction to mold spores.
Whether this finding will lead to any new treatments is uncertain. It does, however, expand the understanding of the medical issues related to asthma.
The study was led by David Corry, an immunologist and pulmonologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and it has been reported in the journal Science. The paper is titled “Cleavage of fibrinogen by proteinases elicits allergic responses through toll-like receptor 4.”
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