The upper respiratory tract is constantly exposed to allergens or substances that can cause an allergic reaction. Under normal circumstances allergens, unlike pathogens, do not provoke an immune response, but instead induce a state of unresponsivesness or tolerance. Sometimes, however, allergens can trigger an immune response, which can lead to the development of asthma
The immunological events surrounding tolerance induction in the lungs are poorly defined. In the August edition of Nature Immunology (Vol. 2, No. 8, pp. 725-731), scientists from Stanford University in California have discovered that dendritic cells, a type of immune cell that detects foreign substances, plays a key role in orchestrating respiratory tolerance. Using an animal model they show that dendritic cells produce interleukin 10 after respiratory exposure to a harmless protein. Interleukin 10 is a type of signaling molecule that stimulates the development of regulatory T cells that suppress or shut down the immune response. Thus, therapies that can induce IL-10 and regulatory T cells may prove useful in treating allergic asthma. Also see the News & Views by Howard Weiner (pp. 671-672).
Dale T. Umetsu
Stanford University Medical Center
Department of Pediatrics, RM G309
Stanford, CA 94305-5208
Tel: (+1) 650-498-6073
Harvard Medical School
Center for Neurologic Diseases
Brigham and Women's Hospital
77 Ave Louis Pasteur, HIM 720
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: (+1) 617-525-5300
Fax: (+1) 617-525-5252
(C) Nature Immunology press release.
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