Cells That Make Asthma Resistant to Steroids Identified

by VR Sreeraman on Sep 21 2008 1:11 PM

Researchers from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC claim to have discovered a lineage of cells that may play a critical role steroid-resistant asthma, a complication that makes asthma treatment even more challenging.

The team led by Jay K. Kolls, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine, Allergy and Immunology at Children's Hospital has identified cells known as T Helper Type 17 (Th17) may help scientists in the development of new treatments that lead to better control of asthma.

"Asthma is a challenging condition to treat. For many patients, if they take preventive medications regularly, the condition can be controlled and they can lead relatively normal lives," said Kolls.

"Inhaled steroids are an important treatment for patients to prevent asthma attacks. Unfortunately, some patients have attacks despite the use of inhaled steroids, meaning they don't respond to steroids or they need such high doses that side effects are experienced," he added.

During the study, the researchers found that Th17 cells mediated steroid-resistant airway inflammation and hyper-responsiveness in animal models of asthma.

Th17 cells are part of the immune system and are found where the body comes in contact with the external environment, such as the lungs and the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.

"Identifying Th17 cells as a potential mechanism by which steroid-resistant asthma gives us a potential new target for the development of drugs that focus on these cells and lead to better overall control of asthma," said Kolls.

The study is published in the Journal of Immunology.