Hopeful Outlook: New Approach to Reduce Asthma Risk in Children


A significant advancement in the research of childhood asthma was achieved by an interdisciplinary group of the ALLIANCE (ALL Age Asthma) cohort of the DZL, led by Helmholtz Munich and the Technical University of Munich (TUM). The study, whose findings were published in the prestigious American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, demonstrates a correlation between a specific gene variant in children and the development of asthma. This milestone opens new avenues for therapeutic approaches.

The causes of asthma in childhood have not yet been fully understood. Approximately one in three children develops an early form of asthma in the first years of life, with 80 percent of them exhibiting a genetic variant on chromosome 17. These children are prone to recurrent viral infections, which could later lead to asthma. The mechanisms behind this gene variant have been unknown, leading to only symptomatic treatment.

Researchers examined samples of nasal mucosa from children with early asthma. They found an increased expression of the protein GSDMB, which is produced in greater quantities due to the gene variant. This protein plays a crucial role in the children's immune response and leads to disrupted interferon release, which is significant for the cellular response to viral infections. Additionally, there were indications that the balance of natural killer cells is disrupted, negatively impacting the barrier function of the nasal mucosa. Researchers speculate that this makes children more susceptible to viral infections and allows allergens to penetrate more easily, potentially leading to the long-term development of asthma. The goal now is to correct the immune defect in the children's airways. To achieve this, they are working on new medications in the form of inhalation sprays that support virus defense by stimulating the epithelial barrier for a more appropriate response.

Thus, the research findings not only provide insights into the causes of childhood asthma but also offer promising prospects for the development of targeted therapies and preventive measures.

Original publication: 17q21 Variants Disturb Mucosal Host Defense in Childhood Asthma. Jakwerth, CA., Weckmann, M., Illi, S. et al. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2023 Dec 8.

Source: DZL

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