New Protein Discovery Could be Good News for Asthmatics
The medical industry welcomes a new scientific breakthrough as scientists discover a new blood clotting protein that contributes to allergic asthma. The protein interacts with immune system components that already play a part in an allergy, thus reducing the risk of respiratory attacks.
According to researchers, the recent discovery could benefit the development of more efficient asthma treatments in the future.
Allergic asthma is a disease most commonly recognised through the inflammation of the respiratory tract, which leads to symptoms like difficulty in breathing, wheezing and coughing. Asthma can be triggered by many different environmental factors, such as dust, mold or animals. Immune protein TLR4 and other allergens known as proteinases are among those responsible for the reaction.
Co-author David Corry explained “asthma is part of a battle that takes place as the immune system marshals its forces to fight off an invading organism, or what mimics such invaders.”
Undergoing an experimental study, researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston induced allergic asthma reactions in mice in order to observe their behaviours when coming into contact with the proteinases found in mold. These proteinases break down a blood-clotting protein called fibrinogen, and the resulting pieces bind to activate TLR4, a receptive protein found among immune cells.
Additional tests and research conducted by study coauthor Dr. David Corry showed that the fibrinogen fragments that compose the blood clotting process can also result in clotting that creates a barrier to breathing and inflammation, thus triggering the symptoms of allergic asthma.
“We suspect asthma is a protective response against fungi in many people,” he said. “It is an aberrant response induced by extreme sensitivity to the proteinases.”
At a particular stage during the experiment, the scientific team at the Medicine College in Houston stopped the fibrinogen protein before it broke down. The result was that the little animals had a reduced reaction to proteinases present in mold.
The fact that the same reaction was observed on mice who did not have TLR4 in their bodies suggested that both proteins were part of a protective series of biological processes that were only found in certain living organisms.
According to Dr. Corry, the current findings on TLR4 represented “only half of the story”. The doctor explained that while the immune system might still be influenced by allergic reactions to proteinases, the specifics are still unknown, and further research and investigation will need to be conducted.
Stephanie Eisenbarth, a physician and immunologist at the Yale School of Medicine, said that the current scientific findings “made perfect sense”, and added “fibrinogen may be a canary in a coal mine, acting as a detector of something pathogenic that may not be detected by classic mechanisms.”