Arizona Respiratory Center Scientists Identify Potential New Strategies for the Prevention of Asthma and Allergies
Asthma and allergies have a considerable impact on the quality of life of many children and adults. These diseases also are becoming increasingly more common, but what has caused this "epidemic" remains unknown.
Several recent studies from Europe and North America have shown that being raised on an animal farm confers protection against the development of asthma and allergies in children. It has been proposed that bacterial products (which are present in abundance in animal farms) may be the environmental exposure that confers this protection, by helping in the maturation of a normal immune system.
Asthma and allergies also run in families, indicating a strong genetic component. Researchers have thus proposed that genes that interact with microbial exposures may have small variations in them that may make persons raised on farms more or less susceptible to the protective effect of microbes.
In the March 2004 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Waltraud Eder, MD, and colleagues tested this hypothesis by studying variations in two genes known to interact with microbial products in the environment, called toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) and toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). Dr. Eder is a research scientist at the University of Arizona's Arizona Respiratory Center.
They found that one genetic variation in the gene for toll-like receptor 2 was strongly associated with asthma and allergies among children raised on animal farms, but was not related to asthma among children not raised on animal farms.
These findings open the way for new strategies for the prevention of asthma and allergies. It now appears that exposure of children with certain genetic background to substances that may imitate a farming environment without causing harm to the child may lead to protection against these diseases. Identification of these substances is under way.
The Arizona Respiratory Center was designated the first Center of Excellence at the UA College of Medicine in 1971. Today, the internationally know Center combines the highest caliber of research, clinical care and teaching. The Center is recognized as one of the top institutions for respiratory care.