Potential Cause of Asthma-Like Symptoms Spotted in Mice

SUNDAY, Aug. 29 (HealthDay News) -- A possible genetic basis for severe asthma has been identified by researchers, and although the findings are based on a study in mice, the discovery may someday help people.

Asthma rates have been increasing in recent years. In susceptible people, the disease can be triggered by a number of environmental factors, including cigarette smoke, allergens and air pollution, senior investigator Marsha Wills-Karp, director of the division of immunobiology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, noted in a hospital news release.

In their study, the researchers found that an inflammation-causing protein called interleukin-17 (IL-17A) is the major cause of severe asthma-like symptoms in mice. The animals used in the study had been bred to have a genetic resemblance to humans with severe susceptibility to asthma.

The finding "suggests that at some point it may be possible to treat or prevent severe forms of asthma by inhibiting pathways that drive the production of IL-17A," Wills-Karp said in the news release.

Scientists typically caution, however, that many discoveries in animal models do not translate into therapies for humans.

The study findings are published in the Aug. 29 issue of the journal Nature Immunology.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, news release, Aug. 29, 2010